Friday, June 23, 2017

100th SOP Video: Making Exceptions to Your Rules

I've just posted my 100th SOP video. Check out my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/smallbizthoughts. In addition to 100 SOP videos, you'll see hundreds of others. Subscribe to the channel and you'll never miss a new video.

- - - - -

Some folks view SOPs - standard operating procedures - as "rules" that much be followed. But sometimes you need to break the rules. Sometimes you need to operate outside the SOPs.

There! I've said it. :-)



Video is here: https://youtu.be/mWQVhGMAZ5Y

But when should you make exceptions? And how do you make exceptions without breaking the system itself? This video provides some guidelines.

More info and SOPs at http://www.sop4smb.com













https://youtu.be/mWQVhGMAZ5Y

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

MyDigitalShield Unveils OmniWAN, a SD-WAN Solution Designed for the SMB Market

My friend Len Dimiceli (VP of Channel Sales at MyDigitalShield) slipped this memo over the transom and asked me to pass it along.

As a BONUS, this press release begins with a large bowl of vegetable soup! The first paragraph is chock full of tasty acronyms. :-)


- - - - -

 

MyDigitalShield Unveils OmniWAN, a SD-WAN Solution Designed for the SMB Market

 

New solution brings the high quality and reliability of expensive MPLS networks to low-cost broadband with baked in enterprise security
 
My Digital Shield (MDS) is a leading provider of ElasticUTM and SD-WAN fused as a platform that provides enterprise-quality connectivity and security technology to small businesses and branch offices. Based on industry-leading unified threat management (UTM) technology, MDS’ customizable cloud-based security solution offers continual protection against cyber threats and intrusion at an affordable price. With no bandwidth pollution, the ElasticUTM delivery model ensures that the latest virus definitions and threat updates are in use for continual threat prevention. Founded in 2013, MDS serves thousands of managed service providers (MSPs) and small businesses in various industries, including retail, restaurants, hospitality, and professional services. For more information, visit www.mydigitalshield.com or follow on Twitter @MyDigitalShield.
Wilmington, DE– June 20th, 2017My Digital Shield (MDS), a leading provider of Security-as-a-Service (SECaaS) for small businesses, announced today the release of OmniWAN, a SD-WAN solution tailored to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). A combination of Elastic UTM and SD-WAN, OmniWAN brings important quality metrics to existing internet connections, turning cable, DSL and more into enterprise-quality MPLS, without the costly price. Having offered OmniShield, an ElasticUTM platform tailored to provide Fortune 500-grade managed security services to SMBs, MDS sought out to create a high-performing, secure UTM coupled with high-performing internet connectivity at a small business price.

OmniWAN optimizes the internet connection or bonds multiple internet connections, sets several parameters and adds dynamic guardrails in order to keep all traffic flowing optimally. OmniWAN also adds other technology to ensure all applications are treated and optimized according to how they should be treated across the network. All applications, including voice, video streaming, music, webcasts, video conference and file transfers, are sensitive to different network parameters such as bandwidth, latency, jitter, packet loss, fragmentation, etc. OmniWAN ensures each application receives the optimal treatment for its sensitivity requirements.

"SD-WAN and ElasticUTM are extremely powerful independently, but when properly used together, the enhancements are exponential," said Andrew Bagrin, founder and CEO of MyDigitalShield. "We didn't want to become another SD-WAN provider; our goal was to enhance OmniShield while building a combined solution for the SMB market. As a result, we are able to bring the high quality and reliability of expensive networks at lower costs, but with baked in high-end security."

Tested by MDS channel partners for months, OmniWAN and OmniShield have shown great success.

"OmniShield has always been an amazing concept for security and one which has proven to be extremely effective for our clients; however, I was a bit skeptical about OmniWAN,” said Kenneth Holley, founder and CEO of Information Systems Integration, a premier MDS channel partner. “After experiencing it first hand, thoroughly testing in our lab and several other locations, I am amazed at how the combined solution works so well. The improvements to the networks are incredible.  Absolutely everything works better, is faster and more secure. The OmniWAN and OmniShield combination is exactly what we - and our clients - needed."


For more information about MDS’ OmniWAN, visit http://www.mydigitalshield.com/omniwan/.

About My Digital Shield
  
###

  
Media Contact:
Andrew Bagrin
MyDigitalShield
302.803.6196

Friday, June 16, 2017

SOP Video: Quarterly Roadmap Meetings

Whether you call it a Quarterly Business Review - QBR - or (as I do) a Quarterly Roadmap Meeting, you should meet with each of your clients on a regular basis to discuss business. This is not a sales meeting! This is an opportunity to learn what's going on outside the technology world at your client. You need to see the whole picture in order to give good advice.

That's the topic of my latest SOP video:



Many managed service providers try to do this and find themselves slipping into a sales meeting. You can schedule sales meetings another time. This should be all about what's new, what's changed, and what's planned at the client's office.

Once you know where the client's business is going, you can help them to make good decisions about technology. That makes you so much more than the "Tech."

More info in volume four of the Managed Services Operations Manual. www.sop4smb.com









Wednesday, June 14, 2017

MSP Tech Talks in June

Last week I presented on the SMB Nation MSP Tech Talk series. I'll be presenting again at the end of the month. In the meantime, here are the webinars scheduled for the next few weeks. More information at http://unbouncepages.com/msptechtalk2017/



Threat Landscape Report

June 14th
12:00 Noon Pacific Time

Douglas Jose Pereira dos Santos

This report identifies the threats and trends IT security professionals, from CISO to Security Operations, should be most prepared to address. It draws from the  vast array of network devices and sensors within production devices, comprising billions of events and incidents observed in live production environments around the world between January 1 and March 31, 2017. Read about the risks of encrypted network traffic, the widening repercussions of ransomware, and potential exposures sorted by infrastructure, industry, and region.

Register Here

- - -

Azure Active Directory

June 21st
12:00 Noon Pacific Time

Grant Thompson

Learn about Azure Active Directory. We will cover some of the top features, including a demo of enabling them and time for Q&A.

•    Activate Azure AD for O365
•    Customize Azure AD Branding
•    Single sign-on
•    End-user app launcher (MyApps)
•    Multi-factor Authentication
•    Overview of Azure Active Directory Domain Services

Register Here

- - -

Branding. Every Single Thing You Do Is Your Brand!

June 28th
12:00 Noon Pacific Time

Karl Palachuk

Branding isn’t about your logo or your business cards. Join author and trainer Karl Palachuk for a wholistic look at your business. Karl shows how every single thing you do in your business determines your brand – including those things the client never sees.

Register Here

- - -

Sign up for all three. I'll see you on the 28th!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bonus Training: Robocopy and Jungledisk Click-by-Click

Shout out to all the folks who have attended (or registered for) the SMB Roadshow: I've just posted two video trainings and two extra checklists to download. They're in the "Registered Attendee Downloads" at www.smbroadshow.com.

One of the strategies discussed on the Roadshow is using Jungledisk to map a drive letter in the cloud storage (e.g., Rackspace or AWS). And while I gave you the UP and DOWN Robocopy scripts, one member of the Roadshow Facebook group asked for more detail.

So, I set up a sample data store with just over 2 GB of data and walked through every piece of the process:

- Copy data to the cloud storage
- Install Jungledisk agents on all desktops
- Make the cloud storage the primary data store
- Backup the cloud storage to the local machine in a new "companybackup" directory

The checklist documents are:
R1 – Robocopy to JungleDisk Checklist
and
R2 – Jungledisk Desktop Setup

The videos also mention handouts 19 and 24 from the zipped handouts you should already have.

Thanks to Brian for posting the request.

If you have questions, post them in the SMB Roadshow Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SMBRoadshow/ (This is a closed group for registered attendees).

- - - - -

If you haven't registered for the SMB Roadshow, please check it out at www.smbroadshow.com.

This is a perfect example of what we're trying to do: A thorough click-by-click training on how you can create and implement a very profitable cloud offering for your small business clients.

We have 17 more stops this year - Join Us!

:-)


Friday, June 09, 2017

RMM Survey Results - Part 2

Two weeks ago I ran a survey about RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) tools. The first results were posted on my blog here.

Highlights
- The Remote Control tool is the most important feature users "love"
- Patch Management stands out as the most troublesome feature

This post will dig into the "open ended" comments in the survey results. I had four open ended questions:

4.  If you have not implemented your RM Tool at least 75%, why not?
13. Is there one thing you super-duper love about your RM? What is it?
14. Is there anything you absolutely hate about your RM? What is it?
20. Any related comments or topics we didn't ask about?

Let's start with love and hate.


Things You Love


117 respondents (75%) had a comment about something they loved. One of those was simply the comment, "Love? That is strong." Yes, it is. Since I asked about whether people would choose their current tool again, I thought it was important to try to tease out whether that's because changing would be a hassle or whether users really love the tool they have.

The following percentages are all based on the 117 responses to this question.


First of all, let's acknowledge the comment that Love is a strong word. But more than that, my actual question was whether there was something you Super-Duper Love about your Remote Monitoring tool. It says a lot that 75% of those who filled out the survey have at least one feature they truly love about their RM tool. Obviously that's good news for vendors.

It's not surprising that 48% of the "love" responses were about features - either one specific feature or the overall feature set of their RM. Among specific features mentioned more than once:

19 (34%) mentioned remote control, remote connectivity, or their specific remote management tool

8 (14%) mentioned the power of scripting

4 (7%) mentioned NOC services

3 (5) mentioned reporting

The remainder is a list of 21 items mentioned once each.

The fact that Remote Control tools are mentioned so prominently should send a signal to vendors: Take this seriously. The 19 mentions is even significant if you extent the universe to all respondents. It means that 12% of all people who took the survey love the remote feature enough to single it out.

Compare that to backup, mentioned only once, and two variations of comments on anti-virus, also only mentioned once each.

After specific features, it's quite a jump down to the categories of
  • Ease of Use (n = 20 or 17%)
  • Price (n = 15 or 13%)
  • Integrating with other services such as PSA (n = 11 or 9%), and 
  • Quality of Support (n = 5 or 4%)



Things You Hate


113 respondents (72%) had a comment about something they hated. No one seemed surprised by this question. At least love and hate are pretty well balanced. I was surprised, however, by the one thing that was most mentioned as a "hate" item for RMM systems: Patch Management!

The following percentages are all based on the 113 responses to this question.


The "hate" category is far more spread out than the Love category. 41 respondents (36%) mentioned some specific feature. But there was no one feature that stood out on the hate category the way remote control dominated the love category. But the item that really stands out is Patch Management. 15 respondents (13%) cited patch management as the notable item they had the most trouble with.

That's definitely not good in a remote monitoring and patch management tool! Of course we didn't get all the details, so there could be a variety of reasons for this. Are patches not being applied? Are reports absent or incorrect? Is the process just too difficult? Is it working fine and the user has no way of knowing that for certain?

This is definitely an area worth looking into more closely. Of the 15 who hate their patch management tool, Nine (60% of the 15) rated their overall satisfaction with their remote monitoring system as Good or Very Good. Five of them (33% of the 15) rated their overall satisfaction with their remote monitoring system as Fair. Only one of them rated they RM system as "Very Poor."

So while this issue stands out, it doesn't appear to have a major impact on overall satisfaction.

We step down quite a bit to the next category of things readers hated. Support/account management got seven responses, as did difficult to use and User Interface. Everything else drops off from there.

The good news for vendors of RM solutions is that problems are shallow and wide. Most "hated" items were literally mentioned only once or twice and could not be aggregated with others. While you don't want to ignore these concerns, at least you know there's not some glaring problem in one area.


Why Haven't You Implemented?


In all, 63 people (40% of all respondents) answered Question #4: If you have not implemented your RM Tool at least 75%, why not? And by far the answer was a very predictable lack of time or resources (but mostly time).

The following percentages are all based on the 63 responses to this question.

22 respondents (35% of those who answered this question) said that time or another resource limitation was the problem. And 17 of those 22 specifically used the word time.

9 respondents (14% of those who answered this question) said that they were using another product for some of the features. For example, several people don't like the anti-virus program bundled with the RM solution, so they buy AV elsewhere.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of the results, difficulty in using the product was not a major barrier. Only eight people (13%) said they did not implement the software because it was too difficult.

Other common responses (5, 6, or 7 respondents each) included:


  • They are pretty new to the tool, so they haven't finished implementing (N = 7)
  • They had problems with features or support (N = 6)
  • They haven't decided how to charge or they haven't figured out the MSP model (N = 6)
  • They don't need some features or functionality (N = 5) 


There were a few additional reasons with one or two respondents each.

Two categories stand out here as needing attention: Time and the MSP Model. Both of them have the same answer: You need to get help! If you haven't had time or don't managed time well, you need to join a peer group, find a coach, hire an assistant, or do something to get un-stuck.

Even if you consider the tool simple to set up, it's still a lot of work. But the sooner you start using most of the features, the sooner you'll start improving your service and profits!

Figuring out the MSP model is really a matter of clearing your mind long enough to think about your options and picking one. So we're back to peer groups, etc. You have to take time to work ON your business. But you already know that, right? There are many great resources today. Get help!


Things I Didn't Ask!


I asked folks to comment on any additional information that I should have addressed in the survey. Here are a few suggestions.

The most common suggestions were:

- PSA integration

- How open is the vendor to your feedback and suggestions?

- Number of RMM used (deployed) before using the current RMM

- Integration with other software besides PSA

The one that really struck me was the question of using multiple RMM tools at the same time, and related topic of changing tools. I should know better - I've used multiple tools and I've changed tools a few times.

We started out with Kaseya back in the day when they had no real competition. After a few years, we ran Kaseya and Zenith (Continuum) side by side on servers for a year. Then we moved to strictly Continuum. Eventually, I started working with MAXfocus/LogicNow and we started deploying them and replacing Continuum.

When Mike took over the company, he moved all clients to LogicNow (now SolarWinds MSP). A few years later he sold that company and I started another MSP business. I implemented the LogicNow product exclusively.

So while there are plenty of solutions I haven't tried, I certainly have experience running tools simultaneously and switching tools. So I should have thought about that when I put the survey together. I'll be better next time. :-)

- - - - -

I hope you found this useful. If you think we should do one on PSAs, let me know. I'd love to get over 500 responses just so I feel more confident in the representativeness of the numbers.

Thank you for your participation.

- - - - -

This survey was conducted May 23rd to May 31st via the Small Biz Thoughts blog. There were 158 respondents total.

All the errors are mine!

:-)

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Goodbye Cecilia Galvin

I don't normally do obits, but I want to stop for a minute and say goodbye to a friend and a wonderful member of the SMB IT community. Cecilia Galvin was the Executive Editor of ChannelPro-SMB. She passed away last night and left a true void to be filled.

Here she is showing off her "wedding ring" at a ChannelPro conference.

Someone told me once that the people you work with are not your friends. They are co-workers and business associates. But not friends. Well, I disagree with that completely.

I love the "gang" at ChannelPro. On countless occasions I've hung out with these folks - Michael, Joel, Rich, Cecilia, Lisa, Matt, and Daisy. Even though they live all over the country, they are very close friends. They are a family when they get together. They even fight, but they truly love each other.

It is very sad to lose a member of that family.

In any business, you do business with people you know, like, and trust. And particularly in small business, you get to be friends with some of the people you meet. True friends.

Cecilia was fun, talented, energetic, and playful. She was also an excellent journalist and brought a real piece of her personality to ChannelPro events. I will miss her and I'm grateful I got to know her.

Hug your kids.

Live your life today.

Goodbye Cecilia. You will be missed!

- - - - -

Note: Rich at ChannelPro posted that anyone so inclined can send a donation in her name to:

St. Jude's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis TN 38105
or
St. Joseph's Indian School, P.O. Box 300, Chamberlain, South Dakota 57325

- - - - - 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

1600 Blog Posts . . . and Counting

This is the 1,600th post on this blog.


I started in February of 2006, so that's about 145 posts per year. An average of more than ten per month.

From this blog I have managed to create a delightful group of readers all over the world. Thank you for your support.

I've also used it as a platform to create some major projects. Most notably: The first edition of Managed Services in a Month - the #1 selling book on managed services on Amazon.com for more than ten years.

Thank You All!

I also spent three years writing up SOPs every Friday for the SOP Friday series. Those are indexed and archived at www.sopfriday.com.

And that collection of SOPs eventually became about 70% of the product that became the Managed Services Operations Manual - a four volume set that is also very popular on Amazon and on my site at www.SMBBooks.com.

My goal when I started was to provide about 90% business and operational information rather than technical. I love the technical, but  there's no end to the technical information you can find online. There was almost no business-oriented information for SMB IT providers back in 2006.

Biggest Lesson Learned: Ignore Advice

Social Media have evolved non-stop since this blog was created. By the standards of 99% of all advice you might receive on blogging, I am doing everything wrong.

For example, here's some advice you'll receive from professionals.

1. Don't use Blogger. It's limited. Instead, use Wordpress.

In a word: WhatEVER! Blogger is owned by Google. So it works very nicely with YouTube and other services owned by Google. Also, it's their job to keep up with labels, tags, mobile look and feel, plug-ins, etc. And there are zero limits on traffic or bandwidth.

This has always been a Blogger site and I do essentially nothing to maintain the site or the infrastructure it's on. I have other blogs on Blogger, and I have some on Wordpress. Big picture: Blogger is easier and no one seems to care.

2. Write short blog posts.

Ha ha ha ha ha! I have written several blog posts that run to 7-10 pages. People read it because they need the information. I like to write and my readers like to read. It's a fit.

If I were posting cat videos I would write shorter blog posts. Instead, I write whatever I want and you folks seem to read it. Thank you.

3. Don't piss people off.

I don't intentionally piss people off. But sometimes it happens. I tell it like I see it. If you're insulted, you might spend five seconds evaluating what I say. But if you just get mad and leave, that's okay too.

I read lots of blogs and web sites. I don't agree with everything I read. And sometimes I have to decide whether the advice is worth anything at all. But that process keeps my mind working so I try new things.

There are no right answers of perfect answers. There are only a few ways to do something technical (e.g., backup a registry). But there are a billion ways to run your business. Be open to ideas!

The bottom line: You Be You

Here's my formula for blogging: I do whatever I feel like at the moment. Sometimes that's good for me and sometimes it's bad for me.

But in the end, it connects me with an audience that is interested in (or entertained by) the stuff I'm doing. It might not be a large audience, but it's an audience that I have enjoyed connecting to and working with over the years.

Thank you all. With luck, we'll do this for another 1600 posts!

:-)

Monday, June 05, 2017

Free Webinar: Bundle Everything - The Cafeteria Plan is Dead

I'm doing a webinar in conjunction with SMB Nation.

This Wednesday
June 7th
12:00 Noon - 1:30 PM Pacific Time

Bundle Everything – How to Design Hugely Profitable Services in Bundles 

The “cafeteria plan” is dead. Stop selling every little thing as an add-on with low margins.

I've built several businesses with a strong focus on bundling services for a much higher price. Join me for a thorough walk-through of the process of choosing what to bundle, selling your bundled services, and keeping the profits up over time.

Register here:

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4857924228603717377


Friday, June 02, 2017

RMM Survey Results

I recently did a quick survey of RMM (remote monitoring and management) tools on my blog (here). My plan is to issue two reports on the results. This is the first, covering the basic responses.

RM Survey Results Part 2 is here.

Highlights:
- Most users love their RMM and wouldn't switch
- Most users have implemented most features of their RMM


Of course this is not a massive survey. But it's also not just the results from just one magazine readership or another. And it's not a vendor-sponsored survey. So it just represents the people who answered the survey.

Here's what we found among respondents:
Click to Enlarge

SolarWinds MSP (formerly LogicNow) is the #1 RM vendor with 28% of the market. After that, there's a gaggle of predictable tools with low double digit market share each. These include Continuum (13%), Kaseya (11%), LabTech (11%), and Autotask AEM (10%).

In all, that's about 73% of the market. Nine other brands make up the remaining 23% of the market. Only about 4% of readers had no RM tool at all. For vendors, there are two areas of growth. One is to broaden the market and sell into a growing sector. The other is to steal customers from other vendors. If 96% of the market is using something, then the growth has to come from displacing another vendor.

How easy is that? Let's see.


Note: When I ran the survey, I forgot that N-Able is now in the SolarWinds family. That makes the SolarWinds MSP share, which takes them to 35% of the market. And that means the five front-runners hold 84% of the market, leaving eight other brands with 15% altogether and 4% of the market with no RMM solution.


Overall, people love the tools they've chosen. Seventy-three percent (73%) rate their overall satisfaction with their RM tool as either Good (49%) or Very Good (29%). Only 4% of all respondents rated their tool as Poor or Very Poor.

Over half of all readers (54%) have had the same RM tool for three or more years. Almost half of that (24% of the total) have had the same tool for six or more years. About 18% have had their RM tool for one year or less.

This suggests not only that RM tools are almost universally used, but there's a strong tendency to stick with the tool you have. Additional research would have to tease out how often companies have changed tools or used two or more RM tools at the same time.

When respondents were asked, If you could go back in time with perfect knowledge, "Would you buy this RM Tool again?" Sixty-one percent (61%) said yes. But, a very significant 30% said they don't know. That's a huge swath of managed service providers who might be lured away by another tool. And of course there's the 9% who would not buy their current tool. They are clearly candidates for a switch.

One bit of common wisdom we often hear is that these tools do not get fully used or fully implemented. This survey suggests otherwise. By far, the largest share of respondents (42%) say that they have implemented 76% to 99% of all features. Another 8% claim to have implemented all features of their RM tool. Twenty-four percent (24%) placed themselves in the category of implementing 51% to 75% of features. In all, a whopping 76% of respondents with an RM tool say they have implemented more than half of all RM features.

Among respondents who have used the same RM tool for one year or less, 59% still report using more than half of all features. Thirty-seven percent (37%) say they've implemented three quarters or more of all features. It would be nice to see other surveys validate these numbers. They certainly dispel the myth that most users have not implemented most features of their RMM.

Our respondents also found implementation to be rather trouble-free. Twenty-seven percent (27%) said they did most of the implementation themselves while 55% said they did all of it themselves.

About 16% said the process was "Super Easy" while another 36% reported implementation to be "Pretty Easy." So, while implementation may not be the easiest thing a managed service provider takes on, it's certainly a manageable undertaking.


Feature, Feature, Feature

Overall, readers are happy with the specific features of their tools as well. Eighty-three percent (83%) ranked their overall feature set as good or very good.

One area that should make vendors very happy: Users like the interfaces! An impressive 79% of respondents rated their RM interface as either Good or Very Good. Only two percent rated their interface as Poor.

It's not all good news for manufacturers as 20% of respondents gave their remote control utility a rating of fair. While the Good and Very Good categories are impressive (26% and 47% respectively), the very large evaluation of "Fair" suggests that there's room for improvement with the remote control component.

Not every RM tool ships with a preferred anti-virus tool. Among respondents whose RM does have an AV tool, 47% rated the AV tool as very good and another 26% rated it as good.

Click to Enlarge

As for price, I suspect perception of price is about where vendors would like it to be. There's a pretty normal distribution, with 42% reporting the price to be middle of the road, 28% saying the price is Not Expensive, and 8% saying it's downright Cheap!

And while that's good news, it's not great news. A total of 22% say the product is expensive or too expensive. Again, some follow-up may be useful with regard to switching tools or considering switching tools.

-- - - -

Demographics

The majority of respondents (67%) working in companies with five or fewer employees. Another 15% have six to ten employees, and 13% have eleven to twenty-five employees.

About 18% manage fewer than one hundred endpoints. The majority (53%) manage 100 to 500 endpoints. Twenty-seven percent (27%) support 501-5,000 endpoints. The chart below breaks this out a bit more.

Click to Enlarge
Our respondents have been in business awhile. Thirty-six percent (36%) have been in business at least sixteen years! Another 28% have been around 11-15 years, and 24% have been in business 6-10 years.

As for services offered, readers almost all provide a variety of options:


  • 80% sell hourly labor
  • 72% sell flat-fee project labor
  • 78% sell ongoing maintenance for a flat fee
  • 81% provide support to client who sign an ongoing monthly maintenance contract


This survey was conducted May 23rd to May 31st via the Small Biz Thoughts blog. There were 158 respondents total.

:-)


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Survey! Tell Us About Your RMM Tools

On my SMB Roadshow, I have a section where we talk about the tools you might use to deliver and manage "managed services" and "cloud services." Obviously, a remote monitoring tool is central to that.

I thought it would be useful to find out what YOU are using for remote monitoring and patch management. Please fill out this quick form. If you choose to enter your email, I'll make sure you get the final results.

Some fields are required, but not your email address.

Please fill out the form - and send a link to your I.T. friends on Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, ASCII, etc. The more responses we get, the better!

Survey closes at end of day May 31st, 2017.

NOT sponsored by a vendor.

Remember: I promise to never sell, loan, or rent your email address to anyone for any reason.

Thanks.
- Karl P.


Tell Us About Your Remote Monitoring Tool!

This survey is closed.

Results are blogged here: RMM Survey Results

And Results Part 2 is here: RMM Survey Results Part 2



(Thanks. kp)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Only 17 SMB Roadshow Dates Left - Sign Up Now

Please Join Me on the 2017 SMB Roadshow!

Topic:Making Money with
Cloud Services in Small Business


This all-day seminar is 100% education. No vendors on site. No booths or up-selling. Just education on my very successful "Cloud Five Pack" and how we make 73% profit on our small clients.

Details at SMBRoadshow.com.

Invitation Video:







The show is $999 at the door - but there's no excuse to pay that.

Remaining shows include:
- 4 in the U.K.
- 4 in Australia
- 9 in the U.S.

And if you register now, it's only $599 ! 

You will literally pay for that with the first client you sign. In fact, you'll probably pay for it with the you charge!

The is CHEAP since:
  • You probably don't have to travel far to find a city near you.
  • You only need to sell ONE client on this package to make your money back
  • This really is a business model you can execute right away.  


One guy from the "dry run" we did of this seminar was able to create an offering and sign two clients within TWO business days of the event!


Details at SMBRoadshow.com.


Sessions Include:

Read More . . .
 - Cloud Services in Small Business
 - The Cloud Five-Pack
 - Cloud Migration
 - Implementation
 - and MORE!

Seminar Objectives

This is a workshop - which means you will leave with some real-world goals, and the tools to implement them.

We will cover the strategies for creating a powerful and profitable cloud service offering for the small business market. My managed services businesses have been selling these bundled cloud services since 2008. In fact, it's one of the things that helped us thrive during the recession!


Details at SMBRoadshow.com.


This is NOT a 30 thousand foot overview. We will discuss:
  • Specific products and services
  • How to bundle them
  • How to maximize profit
  • How to combine cloud-based and onsite options
  • The best way to integrate your onsite server
  • Managing multiple accounts
  • Specific scripts for implementing your "Cloud 5-Pack" (or whatever you end up selling)
  • How to change/upgrade the bundle
  • Tiered pricing options
  • Click-by-click setup and integration
  • Selling the cloud bundle
  • Bandwidth realities - and why you do NOT need massive bandwidth for a successful cloud integration
  • ... and more!

The handouts include VERY detailed instructions for configuring your bundles, implementing services, and migrating clients to the cloud. About 150 pages - spiral bound and available for download.



Details at SMBRoadshow.com.


Target Audience

This all-day seminar is intended for any IT service provider who wants to sell very profitable cloud-based services to small businesses. The ideal end-user client is anyone with 1 to 20 users.

You can certainly sell these services to larger companies - and this seminar will give you all the tools and strategies to do that - but larger companies tend to have slightly different requirements.

The basic cloud bundle is intended to provide all the technology a small company needs, including email, storage, backup, anti-virus, spam filtering, patch management, and remote support. You will learn how to up-sell this to include telephones, security monitoring, and other services.

The overall goal is to help you create a combination that is reasonably price for the client and hugely profitable for you.

Bonus Membership

We have created an exclusive Facebook page, open only to people who attend this seminar. It is a place to discuss the strategies presented in the seminar, share their experiences, exchange documents, and so forth.

Once you register for any city, and pay your tuition, you will have access to the Facebook group.

Another great reason to register early!


Details at SMBRoadshow.com.


Upcoming Cities Include:

Seattle, WA - June 20th

Portland, OR - June 22nd

Chicago, IL - July 25th

Detroit, MI - July 27th

London, UK - August 15th

Manchester, UK - August 17th

Edinburgh, Scotland - August 22nd

Dublin, Ireland - August 24th
Nashville, TN - September 19th

Atlanta, GA - September 21st

Adelaide, Australia - October 10th

Melbourne, Australia - October 12th

Sydney, Australia - October 17th

Brisbane, Australia - October 19th

San Jose, CA - November 14th

Oakland, CA - November 16th

Las Vegas, NV - December 8th  
Sign up early and save. 



Thursday, May 18, 2017

Next 5-Week Course Starts Tues. May 23: Core Standard Operating Procedures IT

W5-01

Core Standard Operating Procedures for Small IT Providers

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific
You're guaranteed to learn something that will make or save you the price of admission!



This course will cover the most important procedures you need to have in place to run an efficient and highly profitable Managed Services Business.

Whether you're a new "Computer Consultant" or an experienced Managed Service Provider, you need to create successful processes that will propel your company forward. Nothing is more critical to making profit than having the right processes and procedures in place!

When I take on new coaching clients, they have many of the same issues over and over again. And almost all of them boil down to SOPs - Standard Operating Procedures. Or the lack thereof.

Everyone knows you need SOPs. In fact you probably know which ones you need. But where do you start?
Checklist
You will learn
  • A practical introduction to SOPs
  • The relationship matrix of SOPs
    • Clients
    • Employees
    • Vendors
    • Internal Organization
  • The Ten Most Important SOPs for your IT Consulting Business
  • SOPs management, organization, and updates
  • Implementation strategies internally
  • Implementation strategies for clients
  • Service Department SOPs
    • Building
    • Training
    • Deployment
    • Upkeep
  • Avoiding the biggest pitfalls with SOP development and deployment
  • Building an Action Plan that works

Includes five weeks of teleclasses with related handouts, assignments, and "office hours" with the instructor.

This course is intended for business owners and managers. It is particularly useful for the Service Manager or Operations Manager.



A Few Details . . .

  • Each course will be five one-hour teleseminar phone calls
  • There will be handouts and "homework" assignments
  • If you wish to receive feedback on your assignments, there will be instructor office hours
  • Class calls will be recorded and made available to paid attendees only.
  • All calls start at 9:00 AM Pacific Time

:-)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Retirement Resources for the Self-Employed

Free White Paper!

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been partnering with VSP® Individual Vision Plans to develop a great resource for people who are self-employed and looking to retire.

Most of the people who read my blogs and newsletters are self-employed. And many of you have heard me say, you have to make things happen – Nothing Happens by Itself. That’s certainly true of retirement planning.

If you Google “retirement for self-employed” you’ll get almost 20 million hits . . . all about money and saving. But there’s a lot more to retirement than just putting money in the bank. Yes, you need to address finances. But you also need to look at insurance, housing options, lifestyle, and even whether or not you’ll keep working for extra income on the side.

Check out the resource guide here.

Why this Partnership?

Like many of you, I’ve been self-employed for more than twenty years. And for a long time, I went without vision insurance. Then I found out about VSP Individual Vision Plans. I signed up last year and scheduled my first eye exam in more than five years. It was covered. Then I got new glasses. In all, I saved a few hundred dollars right away because I was covered by an  Individual Vision Plan . It really makes frames, lenses, and exams affordable again!

That’s why I decided to partner with VSP to create this resource. VSP is working to become a true resource for the self-employed community.

While I make a living helping small business owners become more successful, I’m also a strong advocate of work-life balance. That means you have to look at more than finances. VSP paid me to create this resource so they could bring this information to a broader audience. I was happy to do it – and I think you’ll love the result.

One of the most important elements of being self-employed is creating our lifestyle as we work in our businesses. Being self-employed means we have a lot of flexibility. So looking at retirement includes looking at how our lifestyle will change, and making plans to move in that direction.

At the same time, we live in an era where more and more people are creating jobs for themselves online. It’s now  easy to continue working past what some people consider to be re-tirement age. Luckily for us, that doesn’t mean flipping burgers when we’re 70. It basically means doing the same work we’ve been doing for twenty or thirty years, just on a different schedule.

In addition to covering the topics mentioned above, I also have lots of juicy resources in the white paper. These include the most important links you’ll need at the Social Security web site. I also call out some recommended “Action Steps” for you to take.

Please download the Retirement Resources for the Self-Employed white paper. I’d love to hear your feedback on this resource.

:-)

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Just Released - 68 Point Checklist - Version 3.0

The truth is, most of the checklist is the same. But we DO need to keep up with the times.

This tool has been around for twelve years and has helped thousands of IT professionals get a jump start on doing network assessments and creating monthly maintenance checklists.

You can get the 68-Point Checklist V 3.0 FREE at SMB Books

There is a "checkout" process, but you don't need to enter a credit card since the price is zero. Please note: zero-dollar orders have to processed manually, so please be patient. Laura works hard to get orders processed every day.

This famous checklist has been used by thousands of IT Professionals to begin their network audits, provide monthly maintenance of client computers, and generally keep client computer tuned up and working great. Originally published in 2005, this checklist has recently been revised to include cloud services and a lot more.

For notes on how to use the 68-Point Checklist in your sales process, check out the videos on the sales page:

https://www.smbbooks.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=68point

Don't believe it's famous? Google "68 Point Checklist" and see for yourself.
https://www.google.com/search?q=68+Point+Checklist

. . .

It's fun to totally dominate a keyword phrase. Even if it's not something like "genius" or "babe magnet." Oh well.

:-)

Sunday, May 07, 2017

New Audio Program: Most Important Rules for Running a Successful Managed Service Business

I just posted a brand new program you can download today:

The Most Important Rules for Running a Successful Managed Service Business 


This is an audio program recorded live. Includes my flyer with the 22 most important rules I've used to build and run my companies over the last 22 years.

When I first started creating systems and hiring employees, I started paying attention to the "rules" that make us successful. If you've heard me speak, you probably have some of them memorized. Like: Get prepaid for everything.

I created a poster of the most important rules and everyone in my companies has it posted on their bulletin board. We speak these phrases to each other. They are our mantras for success. They help everyone see the big picture and understand the overall culture of our company. They drive our decisions.

And here's the key to success: It's not ONE rule that matters. I can't tell you that rule #7 is worth $1,000/month or 9% of revenue. It doesn't work that way. ALL of the rules, taken together, create a massive interactive effect that drives our success.

This audio program presents an introduction to all 22 rules for success. It was recorded live and includes some audience questions. Delivered as a ZIP file with MP3, slides, and the flyer in .docx format so you can customize it for your company and the rules that drive your success.

Available now at SMB Books!

Click Here for More Information

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Rules for Managing Outsourced Labor - Part Two

A few posts back (See Part One) I talked about some of the things you can outsource and shared some places to get started. This article will cover some basic rules for actually managing outsourced resources and give some ideas about things you cannot outsource.


General Rules for Outsourcing


Interestingly enough, managing outsourced "resources" is a lot like managing W-2 employees in your office. After all, they are people who need to communicate with you, and potentially with your clients. They need to perform tasks efficiently. And they need to report back to you.

If any of that fails, it's partly your fault. Just like any other employee.

I only have a few rules for managing outsourced resources. They are all in support of the goals just stated.

1) Be very clear what you want. You have to define the desired outcome in order for someone to be successful. It might be to call down this list of prospects, configure a firewall, install a printer remotely, or produce marketing graphics. It could be just about anything, but you need to be super clear what you want.

Example: You cannot assign a task that simply says, "Fix the Router." Just as with your own technicians, you need to define the problem and the desired outcome. And the more steps you give them the better. In some cases, you might say that you don't know what the problem is. Maybe port 3389 looks open but you're not getting a response via RDP. Tell them everything you know.

At other times, you might know exactly what you want but you just don't want to do it yourself. For example, you want them to open port 3389, forward it to an internal machine, and verify that they can access the logon screen. Of course you'll also want them to back up the configuration before they start and after they finish - to a specific location.

2) Define one task per request. Just as you do with your ticketing system, you need one task per request. This is especially true if you are connecting primarily via email. It becomes a disaster if you have seven tasks in a massive email string that gets longer and longer as you work your way through totally unrelated activities.

Use a good "title" or short description. Then have a clear longer description of what you want. For Example:

Subject: Calldown for Lunch and Learn
Content: Download the "Friday Lunch and Learn-Chamber" excel spreadsheet. Add a column for your notes and comments. Call each person on the list using the script on the second worksheet. Add "Yes," "No," and "Maybe" notes to the attendee worksheet. Let me know if you have any questions. Due by Wednesday 5PM Pacific time.

3) Agree on Reporting. How will the outsourced resource report to you? Email? Via your CRM logon? Inside the Upwork tool?

This is particularly true of longer projects. If you use email, also use some kind of filters so their email doesn't go missing. You can filter outsourced resource emails into a specific folder within your "inbox" - or whatever works for you.

Remember, reporting goes both ways. When they ask for feedback or clarification, don't wait a week. You'll start wondering what they're up to and they'll start wondering if you really want the work done. As I mentioned above, management comes down to actively managing.

Related to this: You need to hold your virtual assistant (or whoever) accountable for what they agreed on. You need to hold up your side of the communication system, and they need to hold up theirs. If they're good, they'll be busy. So you need to work on making sure you agree on timing and feedback.

4) Agree on Data Exchange. Everyone has a place in the cloud where they want to store stuff and exchange information. You need to be in control of which tools you use. If they throw something on an insecure, free hosted drive, you have no idea how secure your data are. You need to have a tool and you need to give them access. In some cases, that costs money.

Go slow. Be careful. Make sure you all agree on where things get put or exchanged. I'm not a fan of email for this stuff, but lots of people still use it.

5) Use checklists whenever you can. Whether it's configuring a firewall or agreeing on graphic design, the more you can define exactly what you need and the order you need it, the better.

Humans have an amazing capacity to assume information that is not present. We literally fill in the blanks. You might assume that "anyone" would do it your way. But someone else might ask why you think this is related to that. To combat this, it's your job as the manager to fill in the blanks and be as clear as possible.

Good outsourced resources might have their own checklists. They will also help you refine yours. The result is a process that becomes easier and easier to outsource with better results. Embrace the checklist mentality!

6) Pay promptly. Whether you pay by PayPal, check, ECH, or credit card, pay promptly! People who work virtually are almost always independent contractors and small businesses. They are not large corporations. You want to be paid promptly. So do they.

You already know this, so I won't go on and on. Just do it. It's great for the relationship.

- - - - -

What Can't Be Outsourced?

A few years ago I posted an ad for an in-house administrative assistant. In the add, I said please don't reply if you're not in Sacramento. OMG! This opened an amazing storm of virtual assistants pummeling me with complaints that I don't understand how much they can do.

One even said she could do my filing. If I sent her the paperwork and the file cabinet, she would send it back in perfect condition, perfectly filed.

OK.

I hope she understands how thoroughly absurd that is. There are MANY things you need to outsource to a real human being who lives in your town. Maybe you need an employee. Or maybe you need a contractor.

Remember: Outsourcing does not mean you are sending work to another state or country! Here's a list of things I pay someone to do. If I have enough things to do over a long period of time, I will probably hire someone. But sometimes I need three or four different people to get all these things done. In that case, I will probably hire each of them separately as 1099 contractors.

Here's the list of things I don't outsource over the Internet:

- Filing papers in my file cabinet

- Putting gas in my car

- Scanning business cards into my database (This could be sent to a remote V.A.)

- Tiny jobs such as mailing a letter or box

- Packing my signs and handouts for a trip

- Print handouts, build folders, prepare name tags, etc.

- Install network cards (hard drives, memory, etc.)

- Onsite prospect network evaluations

Obviously the list goes on. The point is, you should make these lists. You should list out the things you CAN outsource. Once you begin outsourcing, you will find that you can do more than you thought.

Remember: YOU are someone else's outsourced resource. They hire you so they don't have to hire a technician in-house.

- - - - -

If you haven't read the first part of this two-part series, check it out.

This is the future economy. There is massive talent all over the globe, being connected more and more every day.

Outsourcing allows all of us to get more done, expand our offerings, expand our work hours, reduce our costs, and even help us get into new markets. Once you start delegating beyond your employees, you see that you really can expand your business dramatically!

Some people give me a bad time for sending programming work to India and the Philippines or for using Fiverr for finding graphic artists. All I can say is that I have access to amazing talent at a reasonable price. They're happy. I'm happy. And I think outsourcing will continue to be a growing part of our national and global economies going forward.

Expand what your company can do today and in the future: Embrace Outsourcing!

- - - - -

Comments Welcome.

:-)