- Password Length – According to David Campbell, a security consultant, passwords should be made up of 12 characters. It would cost a criminal approximately $1.5 million of hacking with an application to successfully break a a 12-character password. Some recommend using a mnemonic device so you can easily remember a longer password, even repeating one if need be.
- Don’t Mix Business & Pleasure – You don’t want your entire company to know your dog’s name is your password for your work email system, as well as your Facebook account. This could cause all sorts of problems. Chances are, no one in your company will ever need to know your passwords, but if they are able to uncover them, do you want them snooping around your personal life, as well as your professional life?
- Never Write Your Password Down – If you keep a log of all of your passwords at your desk, or the information is stuck on sticky notes all around your cubicle, it wouldn’t be hard for a an employee to sneak over and glance at your information. As a matter of fact, most SMBs tend to have employees located in close quarters, making this an easier way for someone to get a hold of your password information.
- Never Give Your Password to Anyone – No one in your company should ever ask for your password. Administrators should be able to reset your password without knowing what it is. If someone from your IT department asks for your password, no matter how small your company is, something is probably up.
- Remind your employees – They may get tired of hearing you tell them to “be careful” but ultimately it is your duty to protect your business. Remind your employees of these tips and any others you cant think of, often. One wrong move and it could cost your company thousands of dollars.
Earlier this year Windows started a program called The Windows 7 Small Business Ignite Program, which allowed SMB’s to test out the new operating system and provide feedback to Microsoft about how well it would work for them. Now Microsoft is taking that information and using it a campaign to get many small businesses to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7.
After all the trouble Microsoft had with Vista, many SMB’s are reluctant to upgrade. And since there isn’t a direct XP-to-Windows 7 upgrade path, Microsoft is announcing that there is a more streamlined instillation process. Microsoft hopes that SMB’s who upgrade to the new operating system will notice the immediate increase in productivity, and that the simplified user interface and the increased speed which will quickly translate into cost savings.
One of the main features that Microsoft is hoping will be selling point for many SMB’s is its dramatically faster start up and shut down speeds. Which will translate into less time waiting for your computer to load or shut down when you’re in a hurry. Another feature which will be helpful for XP users, there’s an XP mode which maintains backward compatibility with legacy apps through a virtual Windows XP SP3 environment running under Windows Virtual PC.
With all the new features, and especially the increased speed, Microsoft is hoping SMB’s looking to save money in this trying economy will look at Windows 7 as a way to make that happen.
With the economy slowly climbing out of a recession and the holidays right around the corner, many SMBs are debating what to do for their annual holiday parties, or even whether or not to have their parties at all. According to Newsday.com, only 62% of companies plan to have some sort of celebration this year. That’s down from last year’s 77%.
But even if you’re on a tight budget, you don’t want to do away with your company’s holiday plans. A little creativity goes a long way and a it’s always a great idea to let your employees know how much you appreciate them. Some companies are allowing their employees to have their parties, if the employees will pitch in. For example, having a potluck luncheon, where every employee brings a different dish.
At Super Enterprises, a company based in Melville, New York, the company opted for a lunch instead of an extravagant party. Managment cooked the food in rented ovens for the entire team. As a matter of fact, keeping your office party on-site is a great way to save money. You can let your employees decorate the office and hand out gifts instead of renting a facility for a night.
Another way to keep your holiday party relatively inexpensive is to switch up your menu. If you usually serve steak or fish, try grilling hamburgers and hotdogs or even a breakfast buffet. Or maybe even skip the real food all together and just have dessert. A sundae buffet is a fun idea for your employees. Any kind of buffet verses a full course meal is sure to help save money.
If you do end up renting an off-site facility, there are still a few ways to safely stay within your budget. Forego the full bar and serve wine or a smaller selection of drinks. Also, you can limit party guests to employees only, or insist employees bring only one guest.
No matter what you end up doing for your holiday party, just keep in mind that the important thing is to have fun and let your employees know how much they mean to you throughout the year.
Recently, Internet2Go analyst Greg Sterling conducted a survey of over 2,400 small business owners about the subject of social media such as Twitter and Facebook. The survey was aimed at members of the business social network MerchantCircle, who publish content frequently. His findings were that 45% of small companies, with less than 100 employees, confirmed that they do use Twitter and Facebook to promote their businesses, but Sterling also found that many businesses were not sure how effective their online promotions were due to their lack of knowledge of how to measure the effectiveness.
In an interview with eWeek.com, Sterling said he was surprised at the high percentage, considering many of the companies surveyed do not have the money or resources to spend on sophisticated marketing plans, “For these guys, costs was a big factor. They either need to hire a dedicated person or need more resources and don’t have it.”
80% of businesses surveyed had four or fewer employees, while 79% had annual marketing budgets of less than $5,000. 44% of the businesses said they actually spend less than $1,000 on advertising. 26% of participants said online marketing simply costs too much and another 16% said they just don’t have the time to partake in it. Facebook and Twitter are both free and setting up an account is simple and not at all time-consuming.
So what does this mean? Sterling seems to think that in the future, more and more small businesses will fore go traditional, more competitive forms of advertising such as search engine marketing to focus on social media. “We are going to see more and more of this behavior from other small businesses because it’s free and you don’t have to have expertise to set up these pages,” he told eWeek.
The downside to using Twitter or Facebook is the lack of ability to measure how many visits your account page is getting, but if the social media phenomenon holds up, it’s almost certain some sort of social media marketing measurement tool will become available.
KnowEm is a new site designed to help small and large businesses stake their claim in the social media world. The site offers ways for your brand to have a place on various social media websites and offers a way for you to track and manage your brand on numerous sites in one central location.
You can check the availability of user names and branded key words on 330 different sites for free. KnowEm also offers a few different services for companies, fees range from $49 a month for KnowEm to keep watch for any newly launched social media sites and automatically stake your claim on that site. For $349 KnowEm will insert relevant profile information into the top 150 social media sites for you.
With new social media sites popping up all the time and more large and small businesses creating an online presence, KnowEm seems to be the way to easily manage all the sites in one spot. The site can easily be used to make sure your brand is consistent across the internet so your customers can easily find you and your business. And the fees are worth it and could made a huge difference in how your company is seen online.
Huntsville, Alabama has been named the top medium-sized city in which to start a small business by Fortune Small Business Magazine. The magazine’s November 2009 issue contains a “Best Places to Launch” feature and rounding out the top ten cities are Lafayette, Louisiana; Omaha, Nebraska; Clarksville, Tennessee; Peoria, Illinois; Lexington, Kentucky; Killeen, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Lincoln, Nebraska.
According to the magazine, Huntsville’s beautiful surroundings and low cost of living are just a few of the benefits the city has to offer, as well as less competition (the city is dominated by government contractors instead of venture capitalists). Huntsville is located in northern Alabama and its metro area has a population of 395,645. The city was once known for its cotton and railroad industries but in the mid-1900’s, it became known as “Rocket City” as it became an important city for developing space technology. Home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the U.S. Army’s Aviation and Missile Command, and Cummings Research Park, it remains a huge influence on the country’s aerospace and military technology with a thriving engineering community. The magazine calls it a “breeding ground for tech entrepreneurs.”
Jerry Gabig, the CEO of Q-Track Corporation, said of his own experience starting a business in the city, “The cost of living and running a business is also relatively cheap here. My property tax is about a third of what I used to pay in Massachusetts. State gas taxes are relatively low, and the cost of electricity is below the national average. Land is also cheap, which makes it easy to expand.”
Huntsville Chamber of Commerce CEO and president, Brian Hilson, told the Huntsville Times that a number of national publications have had their eye on the city for years. He says it’s the result of the city’s successful image marketing. “Our story is more credible when someone else says it.”
The rankings were based on a study done by Fortune Small Business along with the Kauffman Foundation (the world’s largest foundation devoted to entrepreneurship). The study showed which cities scored highest based on per capita income, hourly wages, work force quality, crime rates, taxes, and foreclosures. The entire article can be found at Money.CNN.com.
Computer manufacturer Dell has announced that it will be lowering the threshold for its SMB partner deal registration from $50,000 to $15,000, effective immediately. Dell says it wants to better protect those solution providers and expand the number of products and services that can now be registered. In the past, only EqualLogic products and opportunities could be registered below $50,000, but the changes are no open to all Dell products and services.
Paul Shaffer, director of U.S. marketing and operations for Dell’s global commercial channels, said in a statement, “We see this as a great opportunity in the SMB space. We heard from our partners that doing $50,000 in sales was a lot for customers to be buying. We hope that lowering the threshold to $15,000 will create more opportunities for channel partners.”
Many Dell resellers are already excited about the change, claiming it will make the company easier to work with. As a matter of fact, the changes come from feedback given to Dell from many solution providers, along with watching the positive response to Dell’s European channel program’s dropping its own threshold from $50,000 to $25,000.
Dell is also seeing a high number of registration approvals – 85% – and has already started adding more staff to help deal with what they hope will be a much higher demand in the future.
Before announcing the decision, Dell tested the program with a small number of pre-certified partners and say they were pleased with the results of the soft launch.
This is just the latest of several moves made by Dell in an effort to improve both locally and abroad. “We are committed to continuing to respond to the needs of our partners globally, as our decision to lower deal registration for our partners who serve SMBs in the U.S. and EMEA proves,” Vice President and General Manager of Dell Global Commercial Channels Greg Davis said in a statement.
Even though small and medium businesses (SMBs) are trying to save every penny in the current economic climate, a new survey from Spiceworks, Inc. – a developer of network and systems management software and market research company located in Austin, Texas – shows that a majority of businesses intend to purchase hardware and software within the next six months. The Q3 survey was designed to look at technology purchasing and staffing trends among SMBs all over the world. The survey took place over the months of July and August by Spiceworks’ Voice of ITTM market research program. Of the 1,130, the majority were IT professionals that support companies with fewer than 500 employees and with annual technology budgets of about $108,000.
Here are some of the findings from the survey:
- SMBs are letting their desktops, laptops, and servers last them ten more months than normal before purchasing new ones
- 68% of SMBs plan to add new hardware to their networks in the next six months; this includes 56% buying desktops, 55% buying laptops, 45% buying new servers, 31% buying new printers, 27% buying new network devices, and 13% buying notebooks
- The average new order consists of 13 desktops, 10 laptops and two servers
- At 37%, new hardware makes up the largest part of SMB IT budgets
- 51% of businesses are planning to buy new software. 32% of that will go to security and anti-spam solutions software. Of those, about one third plan to buy cloud-based security and anti-spam offerings.
- 44% of SMBs are using virtualization solutions. 21% of SMBs’ total server capacity is currently virtuatlized, but over the next six months, 30% plan to expand virtualization in their networks.
- 25% plan to purchase backup and recovery items within the next six months. Of those, 75% plan to store date on-site and the remaining 25% plan to utilize cloud-based storage. 42% of date will be stored on network-attached storage or storage area network devices; 38% will be stored in local and direct-attached storage; 7% will be hosted off-site; and 13% on tape or other media.
- 57% of SMBs currently use a cloud computing service. The three most popular include anti-spam, hosted email, and online back-up.
- As expected, budgets shrank in 2009. 39% cut their budgets (averaging cuts of 22%), 31 kept their budgets the same, and 30% grew their budgets (averaging growths of 27%).
- 60% of SMBs had to cancel at least one planned 2009 project due to the economy
- As far as hiring goes, 22% of SMBs plan to hire additional full and part-time staff. Only 3% plan to reduce their staff size.
In a statement, Jay Hallberg, co-founder and vice president of Marketing for Spiceworks, said it’s good to see SMBs showing signs of growth and spending, “Most are clearly ready to buy and it will be interesting to watch how these plans play out among different geographies, industries and company sizes. We will track these and other technology trends of interest in future studies.”
Cisco Systems recently launched a line of new products and services for small businesses. The company says these new products and services will help Sisco fit the needs of smaller companies and increase profitability. This comes after the networking company put $100 million into SMB initiatives, rebranded its Linksys products as “Cisco Small Business,” and wrapped its Linksys small business partners into the Cisco channel.
According to Andrew Sage, vice president of worldwide small business sales for Cisco, “Fiscal Year 2010 is the year of execution for sales and the channel, the product suite and services for the SMB. Last year we were as committed, but now it’s more concrete.”
At the Cisco Partner Summit, the company unveiled several new services for the SMB market, including ESW 500 Series Switches, switches that integrate with other Small Business Pro portfolio products to build solutions for small businesses. The product comes in 24 and 48 port models, has optional PoE, and a five year warranty and is available starting at $659 to $3,299. For transitioning SMB clients to VoIP, Cisco has launched the SPA8800 IP Telephony Gateway. The box allows small businesses to connect their open-source IP PBX to their current analog phones and fax machines. This product will cost around $600.
Cisco also launched the PVC300 IP Camera, an IP surveillance video camera that captures live video that can viewed anywhere, including on mobile phones. The camera includes software with the ability to manage up to sixteen cameras at once, has pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities, and sends alerts when any motion is detected, integrating with alarms, doors sensors, and security systems. The camera is available for $794.
Version 1.5 of the Cisco Smart Business Communications System was also debuted at the summit. The new version has WebEx Phone Connect for getting to an online meetings in one click, Cisco TimeCard View, and single-number reach and third party networking monitoring and management applications. This system starts at about $450 per user.
In addition to the products, Cisco added several new services as well, including the Small Business Pro Service – a three year technical support coverage plan with next-day hardware replacement and extended support center access. The company also offers community-based support via a virtual community. Rebates for Select certified partners that participate in the global Partner Development Funds program will offer up to $15,000 until July 25. Partners can also leverage extended channel financing for 90 days or six months. Cisco will also be adding a “Buy Now” button on their website for certain SMB products, new smart designs for small business. They are also offering more customer incentives including migration strategies from Linksys gear, discounts of five to seven percent and price reductions of up to 25 percent on the SBCS system.
Partners are encouraged about Cisco’s focus on SMB. “It’s going to make it easier for us to sell products,” Robert Betzel, president and CEO of Infinity Network Solutions told CRN.
Sometimes, when customers are excessively rude, tell half truths and run up costs because of being a ‘high maintenance’ customer, we fire them.
Just fired a customer today. I thought he was going to jump through the phone and choke me. Good thing is was a phone firing.
I think in the long run we are better off because we will be able to dedicate resources to more productive clients and projects.
Still I struggle with any client loss. In these tough times, firing a customer is something that on the surface seems to fly in the face of logic.