|Over 18,000 Global Readers and Growing! February 7, 2011 - Issue 3-1 CloudSpeak|
Celebrate the cloud and the fact our CloudSpeak newsletter is now THREE YEARS OLD! When we started, we were confused for the Bainbridge Island weather forecast on Weather Underground! Today we’re a thought leader in a transformational technology called “Cloud Computing” (at least for now it’s called that!). Along the way, we’ve pissed you off with distributing news that your technology world is changing very quickly. I don’t apologize. We’re committed to heightening the awareness of the “head in sand” SBS crowd and forcing you to look in the mirror! Joe the computer guy meets Jane the Cloud Champion!
In this issue, I review the Cloud Intelligence conference I just attended in Portland OR this past week. We also talk about numerous cloud strategies to save money and pick the best apps. The SMB 150 influencer list is open for nominations (includes invitations to Awards dinner this spring in LA, see video below!). And we’re AHEAD OF PLAN for the MVP Nation event, March 2-3, Redmond focused on Windows 8!!!!!
Hey – be sure to check out our improved SMB Nation site! Good-bye DNN and hello Joomla. Visit www.smbnation.com
P.S.: Be sure to check out this week's webinar: Cloud 101 with Idea2 CEO Grace Schroeder and I speaking! 10-11am PST Thursday, February 9, 2012.
Sunshine at Portland Cloud Intelligence Conference
Seattlites love Portland. All we need is a good excuse like an NBA game or a conference to make the 3-hour drive south. Late last week I found that with Cloud Intelligence. It was well worth my time. Hosted by QuickStart, a large West Coast training provider, Cloud Intelligence is a real “meat on them thar bones” rich cloud content event. Starting with a kick-off speech by the highly-rated Buck Woody, the Cloud Intelligence event essentially took attendees from A-to-Z in a day on anything and everything concerning Microsoft Cloud technology.
Interestingly, the audience was mixed. It was comprised of many in-house IT Pros in addition to resellers and channel partners. I spoke with people from government, health care and other verticals. There were even developers in the audience. The content was divided into four levels:
What was interesting was that there was very little of the “money maker” talk often associated with SMB Nation and other MSP events. Why? Because Quickstart lives in the technical wheelhouse as a training center and its event efforts reflect that.
See the schedule for the remaining Cloud Intelligence events below. To sign up, use this codeSMB249 and click HERE http://www.intelligence-conferences.com/#2
Here is the remaining tour schedule so you can catch Cloud Intelligence at a city near you soon!
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5 Ways SMBs Can Save Big with the Cloud
SMBs are under constant pressure to wring as much performance as possible out of their resources, especially their IT ones. In years past, most SMBs could safely disregard cloud computing. Sure, the occasional tech startup availed themselves of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) or had their employees use Google Docs until they could save up enough money for Microsoft Office licenses. But these days, SMBs -- even ones providing traditional, non-technology related products and services -- can’t afford to ignore the cloud.
By now, everyone knows businesses can use the cloud to back up their data, but new, innovative technologies like cloud printing, cloud storage, and Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) are also allowing SMBs to save big bucks. Take a look at some of the top ways SMBs are saving money by turning to the cloud.
Telecommunications: In most major cities, a traditional phone contract for three phone lines and no frills can cost $150/month or more. Compare that to cloud based distributed VoIP solutions like those offered by industry leader Nextiva. For just under $100 per month, a small business can obtain unlimited long distance, four local phone numbers, one toll-free number, a virtual fax number, a virtual answering assistant, online voicemail access (plus direct-to-email voicemail transcription) and US-based tech support. As a bonus, with cloud VoIP solutions, a business owner could literally plug a compatible phone in anywhere that there’s an Internet connection and have access to his or her business phone line.
Payroll: Many SMB owners spend hours every pay period dealing with payroll headaches, or else pay an assistant $10 to $15 an hour (or a contracted CPA even more) to take the mess off their hands. Paycycle makes payroll management woes a thing of the past. Paycycle’s web software maintains a complete payroll history, automatically generates payroll related reminders and tax reports, serves as a repository for employee information (such as I-9s and W-2s), calculates state and federal tax withholdings, and either prints paychecks or makes scheduled direct deposit payments. Best of all, Paycycle can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. Paycycle starts at only $31/month plus $6/employee.
Cloud-based Office Software: In years past, businesses (SMBs and otherwise) would often spend anywhere from $100 to $300 per user for Microsoft Office products and thousands of dollars to set up, maintain, and back up a Microsoft Exchange server. SMB owners and purchasing managers have become accustomed to such costs and hardly bat an eye when faced with software purchases every few years or so. But the cloud has changed all of that. Microsoft recently released its Office 365 product, which allows employees full use of office software comparable to traditional MS Office applications plus an external company website for about $6 per user per month (or $72 annually).
Printing: Having provided IT support in the past for a large number of very small businesses, I can safely say that their office printer situations are often a mess. I’ve seen everything from companies with a small inkjet printer in every employee’s office to situations where owners or other employees would have to run into the office just to print an important document in color. Cloud printing services make such convoluted printer setups entirely redundant. SMBs can take advantage of HP ePrint-enabled printers to print to a single inexpensive but efficient office laser jet printer from anywhere in the world with Internet access. As difficult as it might be to believe, this means no more complicated networked printer setups or finding and installing printer drivers on every computer in a workgroup.
Energy and Infrastructure: The Cloud allows businesses to shift a significant amount of their hardware from the physical to the virtual, and that can mean substantial hardware savings along with dramatically lower electricity bills. For example, SMBs can use the cloud for data storage, voice mail, printing, company calendars, and even… entire computers.
Entire computers? Indeed. Instead of supplying every employee with a power-hungry performance PC, companies can instead give each of their employees an inexpensive, super energy efficient terminal box that connects over the Internet to a cloud-hosted virtual machine with all the software they need. Employees wouldn’t be limited to accessing their company computer at the officer either. They could easily connect to it from a home PC or laptop… from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. (Notice a pattern?)
10 Best New Cloud Apps for Business (Especially SMBs)
I wrote late last year about a handful of indispensible business-oriented cloud-powered web apps that I didn't think most readers would have known about yet. In only a couple of short months, I've found dozens and dozens... and dozens more. Most of them are free, too, which is just an amazing testimony to the good work that coders all over the world are doing. Some of these apps are so amazing that I wish I had been charged for them. (Don't worry, developers: I've donated in most cases when possible.)
I think that's all the introduction these beauties need. So without further ado, here they are...
Asana: Ever taken a look at the cost of good project management software? It ain't cheap. Well, except when it's free—like with Asana. This web app offers a slick, intuitive, and powerful interface for inputting employees and tasks, assigning one to the other, and tracking progress. It supports multiple workspaces, projects, teams, and tags (which are simply a way of labeling and organizing). The app includes a robust communication platform with such features as automated e-mail alerts and project bulletin boards that allow file attachments. It's an absolutely amazing tool for any company who has employees out in the field or whose workers use multiple computers.
Grafire: I prefer Asana for the type of project management I find myself needing to do, but Grafire—another project management app—offers some awesome features that other businessfolk will love. Its web service is free, includes 1GB of storage space, manages time tracking, and can create and send out client invoices. It's simple enough that a $9/hour 17-year-old kid ought to be able to learn it in about 17 minutes, so it saves on training costs, too.
Postcron: Business owners recognize the importance of Facebook and social media marketing, but most SMB owners I know have little time to spend on their profiles during the day. Postcron allows Facebook users to create posts and status updates and then schedule them for publication at some later date and time. Savvy marketers can use this tool to push content at strategic times—like lunch hour or happy hour.
Boxmeup: For any small business dealing with major inventory management, enforcing consistent follow through for even the most basic of organizational protocols can be a real battle. Boxmeup offers an innovative, effective, and just plain cool way to improve organization. This trusty app lets you create a virtual box and list its contents. Then you print out a QR code and stick it on the real box (or whatever other container). Anyone using a smart phone can scan the QR code and see the contents of the box (or update the contents if they're adding or removing something). Container contents can also be updated through the web interface.
PageSnap.net: Ever find yourself wanting a super simple, super convenient way to convert entire web pages into PDFs? Well, you can now with PageSnap.net Web to PDF converter. The site will even host your converted page for a week, allowing you (or anyone else with a copy of the link) to download the file.
PDFescape: While I'm on the topic of PDFs, if you're anything like me you have a love-hate relationship with them. Love the universal standard, hate the fact that editing PDFs is a huge pain. I've finally found PDFescape, the solution to all of my PDF headaches (well, almost all of them). PDFescape can add text, lines, images, form fields, and links to any PDF. It also supports "whiting out" content.
Fileslap: I've yet to see anyone implement as easy and effective of a file sharing solution as Fileslap. This web app lets users upload a file (either from their computer or a URL) and create a link they can give to other people. Even better, you don't have to actually download the file to see a preview of it. Even even better, its viewer supports tons and tons of file formats, meaning that users don't need to have whatever program installed on their computer that's normally required to view the file.
LiveMinutes: As a college student, I remember the first ever faculty commitee I had the opportunity to join. It was a real coup for me because I was the official minute taker, and everyone was always so impressed with the comprehensiveness and professionalism of my minutes. It sounds silly, but it actually helped me do some major networking that landed me my first job. Today, I might not have that opportunity because of LiveMinutes. This doozy of a web platform integrates with Skype and automatically creates minutes for both audio and video chats. It also supports sharing and collaborative editing of documents during meetings.
Bdrive: No, I'm not talking about a 5.25" inch floppy, but by Bdrive, I do mean a B:\ drive. For those of us who love the idea of Dropbox but are still a bit suspicious of public cloud storage—or who face intimidating regulatory hurdles—Bdrive is the answer. With Bdrive, you can create a private storage cloud (i.e. a virtual network drive) on either a PC or Mac server (it doesn't have to be an actual server, though). It supports Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS and includes both file access and synchronization across multiple devices. It will map and mount an unlimited number of drives (well, within reason), which can be configured for different users with unique passwords.
Cloud Save: This last one isn't technically a cloud app, but it is a web browser extension that enhances the functionality of a bunch of cloud storage apps. This Chrome extension adds a "Cloud save" option to the browser's contextual (right-click) menu, letting users save files and images directly to their PIcasa, Flickr, Dropbox, CloudApp, Box.net, Min.us, Droplr, Posterous, or Twitpic accounts. (More services coming soon.)
SMB 150 List Returns in 2012
SMB Nation has teamed up once again with the SMB Technology Network to bring the SMB 150 back to the channel for its second year. Sponsored by Blackberry, this year’s SMB 150 will honor the channel’s top 150 professionals later this spring at a Hollywood-themed awards dinner in Los Angeles. Honorees will also receive public acknowledgement in SMB Nation Magazine, as well as on SMBnation.com and SMBtn.org.
The SMB 150 List acknowledges those professionals or “influencers” who have had the largest impact on the SMB IT channel within the past year. Individuals from vendors, partners, service providers, trade associations, media companies, and other communities serving the channel are all eligible for nomination. Channel organizations may also be nominated. Community members should submit nominations—for either themselves or others—at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W6SXLZ2.
Last year’s SMB 150 event proved popular with channel members, who nominated over 900 peers from around the world. Awardees ranged from leaders of the most well-known MSPs to rarely acknowledged small business heroes.
Harry Brelsford, founder and chairman of SMB Nation, hopes to field even more nominations this year, and offered this encouragement to potential nominees: “The SMB 150 is a community event where channel members have come together to choose and celebrate the top dogs in the field. What better professional acknowledgement could there be than being named top geek by a group of established geeks?”
Community voting for SMB 150 finalists will commence in late February. Anyone can vote, with one vote per IP address allowed per 24-hour period. Community voting will count for 40 percent of the final selection process, with a panel of industry experts accounting for the remaining 60 percent. This year’s panel of judges includes Chip Reaves (former CEO, Computer Troubleshooters); Jeff Connally (CEO, CMIT); and Josh Peterson (Sr. Management Consultant, Taylor Business Group).
Brelsford encourages as many channel members as possible to participate in this year’s event: “The SMB 150 is the most community oriented of SMB focused awards, so let’s make sure the channel’s voices are heard. I encourage anyone who cares about the channel to take a few minutes to acknowledge the guys behind the scenes who make the IT world work.”
MVP Nation is LOCKED AND LOADED!
This year's conference is the World's 1st Conference focused on Windows 8. Based on what we are seeing from our friends in Redmond, Windows 8 is going to be a game changer. If you work within the Microsoft ecosystem (and we all do) - this is going to give you the tools you need to hit Windows 8 head on!
Right on the heels of Microsoft’s long-standing MVP summit, the Second Annual MVP Nation runs from March 2-3 in Redmond, WA, at the Microsoft Conference Center.
You will benefit from the opportunity to learn directly from veteran Microsoft MVPs in a hands-on, highly technical environment. You will be able to learn from speakers, workshops, and other sessions led by Microsoft MVPs armed with the newest information from Microsoft’s MVP Summit.
Here’s Why MVP Nation is a Must Attend Event:
Current Sessions Include:
MVP Nation Details
When: March 2-3, 2012
Where: Microsoft Conference Center | Redmond, Washington
For More Information about the event, please see our website: http://mvp.smbnation.com
If you have any questions please call Jennifer Hallmark at (206) 201-2943 extension 2, or, email her at email@example.com
P.S. - You asked us to get back to Redmond and we did! Support SMB Nation by attending this great event!
Sep/Oct 2011 SMB PC Magazine is HERE! Download NOW!
You can download HERE
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