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BNMC Blog

Cybersecurity Insurance- 5 Reasons Why you need it

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Cybersecurity insurance, also referred to as cyber insurance or cyber liability insurance, is insurance that your business can buy to reduce risks to data loss. A cybersecurity insurance policy will transfer some risk to the insurance company for a fee. 

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Who Should Handle Your IT?

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In our evolving COVID-19 world, we've had to re-learn the way we act and think. What worked for our businesses in the past might no longer help us in the future. The pandemic caused a seismic shift for many small businesses. Those who learned to adapt to the changes thrived and survived. With COVID-19 not off the table yet, we're now in a time where business owners need to be strong, flexible, and determined. That is why we will show you why you need a Managed Service Provider to handle your IT.

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Mass Business Podcast about Growing Your Business

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Listen in to The Mass Business Podcast as Roger Michelson, CEO of BNMC is interviewed by Matt Ward, to discuss tips and advice around growing your business. Roger mentions in the Podcast that “I’ve found industry conferences to be very valuable in helping grow the business. It’s a time to focus on business and technology updates and to do a ton of networking.” Roger also mentions that you should “Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you or have gone through what you’re going through so you are getting advice and learning from them to help grow your business.”

The Mass Business Podcast is a 5x a week show with one goal – to help you, the small business owner, grow & be more effective in your small business. The guests and topics provide information, education, and insights on how to grow and scale a small business and in particular with a focus on understanding networking and referrals.

www.MassBusinessPodcast.com/podcast/018

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Are Cybersecurity and Internet Safety the same?

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We use it, but we don't think about it. Modern society is dependent on technology. Whether it’s your TV, the Internet, a laptop, or a phone, there's no denying how much life has changed over the last two decades. This online access means that individuals and businesses need to be diligent about their Cybersecurity and Internet Safety.

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Beefing Up Your Communication Security

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When it comes to personal or business data security, you must know how to spot bogus links. Recognizing fake email links that might lead to fraudulent pages is a challenge for many people. The fact that hackers are using more advanced methods makes it worse for all of us. That is why beefing up your communication security is very important for your business data.

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Modern-Day Communication, The Dangers Behind It

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When it comes to IT security solutions, there are a large number of threats facing us. Modern-day communication technology has opened up a massive amount of potential for people; however, it also poses a significant threat in terms of security. Threats are increasingly advanced as time passes by, and this is endangering the safety and security of our data and private information. That’s why we have come up with this blog. We want to bring light to the dangers of modern security and how you can get professional support to avoid these risks. 

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Clicking Fake Links, The Horror Behind It!

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When it comes to using the internet, you know how things can go wrong. We all like to think that our online activities are safe and protected. However, the reality is that hacking methods are increasingly creative to get people to clicking fake links. As such, today, we're here to draw attention to the horror stories that occur when people fall for bogus email links and the best tips for fake link prevention. 

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Spot Fake Links in your Emails

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Opening unknown links can be a risk factor for your business and staff. As a result, more and more business owners have incorporated fake link prevention strategies into their security training. We’ve come up with a few tips to help ensure that your staff members have the critical information on how to spot fake links. This training can help prevent hackers from gaining access to your business. In cases like this, it is better to be proactive rather than reactive after a breach. 

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Shifting Your Workforce: Workplace Culture Reboot in the post-Covid-19 pandemic era

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With the many changes that have occurred since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent crisis, employers are facing crucial decisions on how to shift their workforce into a new workplace culture reboot. This is the ideal time for looking at what we’ve learned over the past year. It's an opportunity to focus on inclusion and diversity, and to create a positive workspace.

 

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Back to School is around the corner. Are you prepared for Cybersecurity threats?

The number of publicly disclosed cybersecurity incidents affecting K-12 school systems rose by 18% in 2020 over the previous year, according to a report published earlier this year by the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center and the K12 Security Information Exchange, or K12 Six, a new nonprofit group.  https://edscoop.com/k12-cyberattacks-rose-2021/

In total, the two organizations counted 408 incidents, including denial-of-service attacks, ransomware, data breaches and phishing attacks last year, the most since the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center started tracking such events in 2016. The incidents affected 377 organizations spread across 40 states, with 51% of all attacks affecting rural districts, which are often poorly equipped to respond to an IT emergency.

And while the first three months of 2020 were largely a continuation of the trends of 2019 — a year in which ransomware against the education sector surged — the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic create new threats for schools, all while officials’ were scrambling to outfit teachers and students for virtual learning environments.

 

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has also seen an increase in malicious activity with ransomware attacks against K-12 educational institutions.  https://www.cisa.gov/publication/cyber-threats-k-12-remote-learning-education   Malicious cyber actors are targeting school computer systems, slowing access, and rendering the systems inaccessible to basic functions, including remote learning. In some instances, ransomware actors stole and threatened to leak confidential student data unless institutions paid a ransom.

Since March, uninvited users have disrupted live-conferenced classroom settings by verbally harassing students, displaying pornography and violent images, and doxing meeting attendees.

 

Are you prepared for the Back to School surge in activity.  Hackers know that faculty and students are returning to schools across the U.S. over the next several weeks and cybersecurity experts are predicting a surge in threats.  Contact us for additional information on how to better protect your school system.

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Shifting Your Workforce: Preventing Workplace Distractions

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It's fair to say that everyone gets a little distracted at work from time to time. Even with intentions not to procrastinate, it can be a real challenge to stay on task. It can seem almost impossible to avoid distractions. According to statistics, workplace distractions account for a sizeable loss in productivity. Typically, a manager has an interruption every 8 minutes. Also, employees will spend around 28% of their working time dealing with unnecessary interruptions. So, how can we work towards preventing workplace distractions? Let's take a look at some strategies to reclaim focus. We'll also look into the different distractions that can be problematic for remote workers and those in the office environment.

How to be distraction-free from your workplace

Having good habits and sticking to them is one strategy for eliminating distractions. Start by focusing on your working environment. Encourage employees working from home to organize their home office so that there are few temptations to get stuck on something other than work. This task isn't easy, however. Given that most people rely on computers for work, it is easy to be distracted by non-work-related sites. It might be wise to consider using an app that blocks certain websites during working hours. 

For employees in shared offices or shared home working spaces, closing doors or using noise-canceling headsets can be helpful. Another idea is to put your phone somewhere out of reach and put it on silent mode. For those employees in open offices, it might be a good idea to try and move to somewhere quieter. Some studies show that workers in open offices report more distractions than those working in more isolated areas. 

Averting workplace distractions for remote workers

Given the rise in remote working, many people who managed to work in an office environment without distractions have found themselves with distractions they have never encountered before. 

For employees who shifted to work from home during the pandemic, many were distracted by their children. Some workers had to be full-time or part-time childcare at the same time as holding down their job. Thankfully, childcare has resumed, so remote workers are more 'alone' when working remotely. This fix doesn't, however, mean that distractions have vanished. 

Many people working from home have partners who look after young children, so the distractions or potential for distractions remain. Other distractions include realizing some jobs need doing around the house, like laundry or cooking, pets, partners popping in for a quick chat, unexpected visitors, and parcel deliveries. 

One solution to preventing workplace distractions is making it clear to others at home that disruptions aren't welcome. A simple ‘do not disturb’ sign might do the trick when paired with a noise-canceling headset. 

Preventing distractions from your office work

After reading the above section about remote working, it might be easy to think that remote workers are more distracted than office workers. This idea isn't the case, however. According to Airtasker, remote employees are more productive than office employees and are less distracted. So, what is distracting our office workers? 

More often than not, it is other employees that cause distractions for office workers. Co-workers who come over for quick chats, phone calls, Microsoft Teams messaging, Google Workspace, or even emails will all slow down employees. Other non-work-related distractions include switching over to check social media, time management, and even chatting in the breakroom. 

Some solutions that help to prevent these include:

Ensure employees are aware of workplace etiquette when it comes to talking to colleagues. Be sure they know your thoughts on how much chatting is allowed about non-work-related topics. 

Have communication policies in place with regards to emails and reply turnaround time. 

Consider using software to block certain websites that might cause distractions (like social media) 

Have a telephone policy in place so everyone knows your expectations when using personal phones at their desks. 

Teach your employees how to organize and mute notifications in Teams, M365, etc. 

Hold regular, but not too many, team meetings and discuss distractions and how to overcome them. It's possible that there are communication issues that will never be resolved unless they're brought to your attention.

Final thoughts on preventing workplace distractions 

While you cannot prevent distractions altogether, there are things you can do to help your employees stay on task. Don't underestimate the importance of having an open working relationship built on mutual trust and respect. Many employees work their best when they're trusted to complete their work without micromanagement. In a trusted environment, they might find themselves more focused on their work as a result. If you have any questions about shifting your current workplace, contact us today. We are here to help. 

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Latest Back to Work Supplies That Will Make Working Easier

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With the world slowly seeing things get back to work in the traditional sense (as opposed to remotely), workplaces are refreshing their back-to-work supplies and procedures. The Covid-19 pandemic has been catastrophic. It has also meant changes as to how we view work and the work environment. Never before have we had so many people working remotely with such success, and it's argued that a hybrid workforce might remain in the future.  

We've all seen the news stories about remote workers quitting instead of returning to the office. This new trend needs attention. Companies owe it to employees who do a great job remotely to listen to their concerns about returning to the office. 

This task is not an easy task. In this week's blog, we will bring awareness to this subject. And, for those returning to office spaces, what back-to-work supplies do we need to consider? 

Back to work supplies for the conference room

One shift we've seen has been an increase in the use of technology to allow employees to work remotely. The pandemic motivated people to work tirelessly on creating new platforms, improve existing platforms, and invest in new technologies. There are many new collaboration tools available that are useful. One such invention is conference room technology like a webcam that follows the speaker. A conference room webcam is very different from a standard home webcam. Typically, the whole conference room can participate as the camera can capture any speaker thanks to its cameras that pan through 360°. This device makes for an excellent collaborative conference room with people participating both in-person and remotely. 

Another great tool is an interactive whiteboard. This board works the same way as a regular whiteboard, but the writing is shareable collaboratively. They're essentially large-scale touch screen computers used by teachers in school classrooms. They're now finding their place in collaborative conference rooms too. 

Technology and working with others 

Many remote employees have forgotten just how distracting a work environment can be. With phone calls, office conversations, noisy printers, and photocopiers, the work environment is a noisy one. One great idea for back-to-work supplies is buying noise-canceling headsets for the workforce. These headsets will help people as they reacclimate to being in a noisier environment while working again. 

These will also help when people are having conference calls in open spaces while on Teams or Zoom. Just because people are coming back into the office doesn’t mean conference calls are a thing of the past. It's likely for these to continue. They probably have a permanent place in our work-life going forward. Typically, at home, most people had little background noise. In the office, people have to navigate their calls with lots of background noise.  

Back to work supplies that mimic the home environment 

While there were some teething problems with remote working, there were many positive aspects of working from home. To continue these benefits and to ease workers back to their desks, it might be a good idea to source back to work supplies that mimic home environments. Soft furnishings, plants, refreshments, etc., will all help to achieve this. 

Other practices for shifting your workforce forwards 

One idea is to allow dogs in the workplace. This choice comes with lots of consideration and planning. But, it's been great for many remote workers over the last 12 months. Having a pet close by definitely has benefits. 

There's been an increase in loungewear sales over the past year. This surge is due to people working from home and embracing comfier attire. As you ease back into the office, perhaps consider relaxing the dress code somewhat. If productivity hasn't been affected by home working attire, are suits and jackets needed for your workspace? 

Enjoy your Free Time 

Finally, we must not underestimate the importance of work-life balance. What many have enjoyed about working at home is the lack of commute. This time-saver has undoubtedly improved work-life balance. It might be beneficial to structure a workforce schedule that works well for everybody. Ideas such as hybrid working and flexible working hours are considerations. 

We hope these tips help you transition remote employees back into the office a little more smoothly. If you need to upgrade or install new technology for this process, give us a call. We’re here to make things easier for you! 

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How Natural Disasters, Breaches, and Hackers Affect Businesses Big and Small

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The success of a business is often attributed to the strong decisions of its management. Yet, that is not the entire story. Often, both failure and success can be determined by how a business deals with situations out of its control. A business may fail because it wasn’t prepared for an unexpected event. Conversely, another business might be able to survive a natural disaster simply because it had a plan in place for such an event. 

All businesses, whether large or small, have lots of potential threats. If one of these threats happens, it can have devastating consequences. According to ZDNet, the top three threats to society include cyberattacks, natural disasters, and extreme weather. Interestingly, they put cyberattacks on the same level of devastation as extreme weather and natural disasters. It is unfortunately true. The consequences of natural disasters, breaches, and hackers lead to threats to businesses and data loss. Since many businesses rely on connected services and the internet, the damage from cyberattacks can be huge. It's one of the biggest risks the world faces today.  

Types of natural disasters 

There are many types of natural disasters. All of them can affect businesses and data loss. Here are some examples of natural disasters: 

• Earthquake 

• Fire 

• Tsunami 

• Flooding or extreme precipitation 

• Hurricane, tornado, cyclone 

• Volcanoes 

• Lightning 

• Famine and drought 

• Landslide 

• Extreme temperature (heat or cold) 

• And, as we’ve seen, pandemics 

Impact of natural disasters 

Before we delve into exploring businesses and data loss from natural disasters, we can’t ignore the devastating results of these natural phenomena outside in general. According to Our World in Data, there are around 60,000 deaths from natural disasters worldwide. The deadliest of natural disasters is usually an earthquake. Typically, natural disasters affect poorer populations more heavily. This is often due to a lack of protective dwelling construction or adequate response to the event.  

How does disaster impact businesses?  

No one is ever 100% prepared for a disaster. Whether the disaster is an earthquake, tornado, or flood, an organization's plans can be thrown into disarray. There might be a breakdown in supply chains. Maybe employees are unable to reach the premises. Or there may be damage to the facilities, equipment, or the power or internet may be down. In any disaster, including the technological kind, a business will need to find ways to deal with the situation at hand. This is why it is important for all businesses, regardless of size, to have contingency plans for disasters. It should be a priority. 

How can businesses plan for natural disasters? 

Businesses should ensure they look at their entire operation and consider how a natural disaster might disrupt every branch. It’s not just about planning emergency evacuation routes or having emergency supplies. Businesses also need to consider things like how to contact employees if connections are down.  

Depending on the business type, an organization might also need to think about how to sort out their supply chain if they are unable to access the major transit routes due to natural disasters. Having an alternative plan if facilities can’t be used is a must for survival. 

Natural disasters, data breaches, and hackers for businesses, and data loss 

While we’re talking about disasters that affect businesses, we must also consider technological disasters like hackers and data breaches. These can have just as much of an impact on businesses and data loss. In some parts of the world, these events are more likely than a natural disaster. According to Forbes, hackers and cybercrime are more devastating to business operations than a Transit Strike, a Fire, and even Floods for small and medium-sized businesses.  

Final thoughts 

While we can’t prevent any of these disasters from causing problems for businesses and data loss, there are steps that we can take to reduce their impact. The main takeaway is to plan for all possible scenarios. For the impact of events to be reduced, there must be a detailed process in place.  

One solution is an on-site BDR (Backup, Disaster, Recovery) unit. A BDR automatically backs up all your data every 15 minutes. It is connected to an auxiliary power unit so it can back up everything when the power goes out. 

There are also Cloud solutions that backup your data safely, in multiple locations. This ensures that your data is always available, no matter what happens. 

If you have any questions about Backup solutions or would like to change the ways you are currently saving your data, contact us any time. As your Managed Service Provider, the safety of your data is our concern too. 

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BNMC Cybersecurity update around Kaseya ransomware attack

As you probably heard in the news over the weekend, there was a large Cybersecurity attack against the Kaseya VSA remote monitoring and management system by Russian based REvil gang.  Kaseya VSA is a tool used by many Managed Service Providers (MSPs) similar to BNMC.  We wanted to reach out and let you know that neither BNMC nor our customers were affected by this attack.  BNMC utilizes N-Able N-Central for our remote monitoring and management and our systems were not affected.

BNMC is still very concerned about this attack and we are closely monitoring our existing systems as well as updates from both Kaseya and our other security vendors.  Our other system vendors, including N-Able, ConnectWise Manage and ITGlue have temporarily cut their systems ties with Kaseya in order to safe guard from any possible issues from this attack.

We will keep you updated if anything new develops with this Cybersecurity issue.  Please reach out and contact me with any questions or concerns.
 
Stay Safe,
Roger
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BNMC Cybersecurity update: Microsoft PrintNightmare Emergency Security Patch

BNMC is in the process of rolling out an emergency Microsoft Windows server security patch to all of our customers in response to address a critical flaw in the Windows Print Spooler service. The vulnerability, dubbed PrintNightmare, was revealed last week, after security researchers accidentally published proof-of-concept (PoC) exploit code. Microsoft has issued out-of-band security updates to address the flaw, and has rated it as critical as attackers can remotely execute code with system-level privileges on affected machines.


BNMC normally schedules all server patches during the customized maintenance window defined by each customer.  But, this security patch has a critical rating and needs to be applied ASAP.  As the Print Spooler service runs by default on Windows, Microsoft has had to issue patches for Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1, and a variety of supported versions of Windows 10. Microsoft has even taken the unusual step of issuing patches for Windows 7, which officially went out of support last year. Microsoft has not yet issued patches for Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2016, and Windows 10 Version 1607, though. Microsoft says “security updates for these versions of Windows will be released soon.”

It took Microsoft a couple of days to issue an alert about a 0-day affecting all supported versions of Windows. The PrintNightmare vulnerability allows attackers to use remote code execution, so bad actors could potentially install programs, modify data, and create new accounts with full admin rights.

“We recommend that you install these updates immediately,” says Microsoft. “The security updates released on and after July 6, 2021 contain protections for CVE-2021-1675 and the additional remote code execution exploit in the Windows Print Spooler service known as ‘PrintNightmare’, documented in CVE-2021-34527.”.  
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Why Vendor Management?

As you have read in our previous blog posts, the vendors we use and our relationships with them are critical to our success as a company. Vendors can drive new growth and help us achieve profit goals and revenue gains. They are central to many activities and processes in our organizations.

Why is Vendor Management important?

When we’re caught up in the daily grind of running a business, it’s not easy to keep track of time spent and time wasted. Some very reliable estimates tell us that Business Executives spend an average of 15 minutes a day on hold.

I know what you’re thinking: “Fifteen minutes? Big deal!”

Sure, that doesn’t seem like a lot of lost time for one day. Now let’s see what the real damage is. That time adds up to:

  • 75 Minutes per week
  • 300 Minutes per month
  • 3,600 Minutes per year

That’s about seven and a half days you’re losing each year. A week and a half you could be used to get projects done, launch new products, or grow your business. Now you can see the importance of efficient vendor management.

Effective Management of Vendors

In our previous blog posts, we’ve talked about the importance of managing vendor-business relationships effectively. It’s no longer the case that procurement is only buying services or goods. In today’s business environment, vendor partnerships need to be a key part of your business growth strategy. You need to work with your vendors and manage your relationships strategically to reap the rewards.

Who does your Vendor Management?

As we’ve mentioned in the last blog, vendor management isn’t widely implemented by SMBs, nor is it well understood. So, to make sure we’re all on the same page, what do we mean by vendor management?

Vendors are the businesses and individuals that provide services and goods to your company. You might work with many different vendors and pay varying rates, have varying contacts, and varying contract terms. This can be a minefield in terms of management and so you might find that you end up overpaying for services and goods. You also might lose money on lots of hidden costs.

Vendor management can help with this. Simply speaking, this is a process involving: the research of vendors, the seeking of quotes, the negotiation of contracts, the management of vendor relationships, the evaluation of vendor performance, and the paying of vendors. Overall, you can save yourself both money and time if you streamline these processes.

Why is Vendor Management important?

Managing your vendors can reduce risks. We’re talking about unforeseen costs and regulatory compliance. For example, with vendor management, you can track supplies and have the necessary data available to identify risks to mitigate them.

Another reason why vendor management is essential is so you can measure and track their performance. That way, you can make sure that the vendor meets your business needs and requirements.

Essentially, vendor management will help you reduce your costs. With increased visibility, you will see hidden costs and will be able to control them to save money. You might be able to negotiate a better deal or access incentives and discounts. With this in mind, you might be interested in reading our previous blog on being nickel-and-dimed with additional costs.

As you know, loyal relationships are also good reasons to focus on vendor management. A good vendor isn’t easy to find. If you find one, you’ll need to do all that you can to build your relationship with them to build trust and loyalty.

Protecting your brand

Ultimately, you need to look after your business. Vendor management can help you do that. Your brand is your reputation and it holds lots of value. An unethical or unprofessional vendor might tarnish this reputation. With vendor management, you will reduce the risk of serious incidents that stem from poor vendor actions.

We can help!

We know this is a lot to absorb. So, if you still have questions about managing your vendors, contact us. The more things we can take off your plate, the more time you have to focus on more important stuff! And that will give you peace of mind, better Vendor relationships, and about a week and a half of your time back.

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Develop Your Vendor Relationships

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For SMBs that want to take their business to the next level, you need help from your vendor partners. Unless you have this help, your business might not reach its potential. We all know vendor partnerships are key to strategic growth and longevity. Therefore, we need to become actively involved in that partnership.

Why do we need strong vendor relationships?

Having a strong partnership with your vendor is vital to continued business growth. It will mean your clients receive better service and will provide PR opportunities that raise your business profile.

Without a strong relationship, your business can stall. It might lack the resources or momentum to get to the next level. Securing and continuing to build a great relationship is critical to growth. Vendor management is one of the most underappreciated, yet critical functions you are responsible for. Luckily, this is something that can be easily addressed. So, how do you get that secure relationship where you become the vendor's favorite partner? Let’s find out!

Make the vendor the center of your growth strategy

If you give your vendor relationship the central place in your growth strategy, you’re headed in the right direction. To be successful and grow, you need your vendor to think of you as a partner and not just a customer. A key approach is building up the relationship you have with your vendor account manager. Needless to say, this a very important step, so don’t let the relationship dry up.

Oftentimes SMBs will avoid emails or telephone calls from accounts managers as they see them as irritating. They’re trying to avoid sales pitches trying to get more money. But, if you take the opposite line of attack, you might see things change in your favor. For example, don't wait for a sales call from your vendor, call them yourself and ask how you can become their favorite partner. With this approach, you show the vendor that you're willing to make this a two-way relationship that can help them as well as you.

Take a forward approach

Being forward in this way can be quite surprising for vendors. They mainly spend their time dealing with SMBs that ask for discounts or favors. What's more, they don't often have them asking to help them.

In this regard, it’s good to have a bit of inside knowledge of how vendor account managers are measured in terms of performance. It might come as a surprise to learn that it’s not only their sales volume that is considered. Additionally, vendor account managers are measured on the sales pipeline visibility and how many new SMB partnerships they get.

Furthermore, it's a good idea to open up communications lines with vendor account managers so they see the sales opportunities that arise. This will also mean that the vendor account managers can report sales pipelines accurately to their management.

Making direct introductions

Remember we said this is a two-way relationship – help your vendors by making introductions directly. Talk to your peers about the work you do with your vendor partners. Tell them what you enjoy about working with the vendor and how your business has grown thanks to the good relationship.

These activities might seem unusual as recommendations usually go the other way. After all, not many are doing it, which is why you can become your vendor partner's favorite client quickly.

Does this yield results?

With this sort of helpful attitude, you will notice your partnerships flourish. You build trust. This trust will result in quicker resolutions to technical and supply issues more quickly – a bonus for your clients.

There really isn’t a downside to building a strong relationship with your vendor. Correspondingly, your relationship will become a real partnership with mutual commitment leading to success for both.

Final thoughts

If you want to move your business to the next level, approaching your vendor relationship in a different way can help to achieve growth. Without such a relationship, your growth could hit a wall that you might struggle to get beyond. If you have questions or need help managing your vendors, please contact us to discuss how we can help in this area.

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Are You Getting Nickel-And-Dimed By Your Vendors?

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Are you getting ‘nickel-and-dimed’ by your vendors? This is a great phrase that you’ll hear concerning charges for extra services within a larger service or purchase. According to Grammarist.com, the phrase ‘nickel-and-dimed’ has been around since the 19th century. Originally, it meant small amounts of money. It wasn’t until the 20th century that this phrase became a verb and an adjective for descriptive purposes. It’s a relevant phrase when it comes to the SMB-vendor relationship. Being 'nickel-and-dimed' means you're spending more on extra services than you agreed to. The phrase makes you consider the impact unknown costs can have on a business and its profit margin.

As a business owner, you need to decide what level of IT support is right for you. Small businesses frequently operate under the “break-fix” model. Break-fix is exactly what it sounds like: you run your business normally until something breaks, then you pay someone to fix it. Managed Service Providers, like us, offer a monthly service agreement to handle all of your IT support.But remember, not all managed services are created equally - don't get nickel-and-dimed!

Break-Fix Model

While the break-fix model appears the simplest out of the gate, it ends up costing more than you think. The ‘breaks’ cost you more because you're stuck with unexpected hardware and software costs, and the ‘fixes’ cost you a lot more due to downtime, outages, and lost potential revenue. At some point, you’ll get tired of your CFO running into your office with a stack of bills from all of last month’s fixes.

 

Working withVendors

Finding a vendor that works well for your business is essential. SMBs often seek out vendors that offer full solutions. These deals are usually better for the client as well as their revenue and profitability.

Choosing a vendor that offers a complete solution means you won't get 'nickel-and-dimed.’ When a vendor gives you the option to pick your solutions it often sounds too good to be true. However, this way often makes things more complicated for both you and your client. It also makes it hard to predict revenue and costs going forward.

SMBs need efficiency

Efficiency is paramount for SMBs and this translates to your customers too. When vendors offer features individually, the SMB purchases separate parts as individual products. With a turnkey solution, they have one single comprehensive package. Otherwise, you're spending money on features that you thought were included. Unbundling your service might also mean ending up working with multiple vendors. What you need is a single vendor; a one-stop-shop for all of the features you need. Bear in mind that this vendor also needs to be able to adapt to you in the future too.

What SMBs need their Vendors to know

SMBs need a vendor that recognizes their role in supporting your business. We buy, employ and use their technology to run our businesses. SMBs should expect their vendors to listen to them and help them build their business. If you suspect you're being nickel-and-dimed, then this isn't a partnership worth pursuing. Don't stick with it because it might seem like an easy option or because it's hard to find a vendor that checks all of the boxes. You can maximize profitability and ROI with a vendor that works for you and works with you.

Future-proofing

When new features become available, they should not be a separate offer or a stand-alone service. SMBs need to ensure the vendor they work with can future-proof their plan to add any new features onto their existing offering.

With a complete, fixed-price solution, vendors will earn your business each month and will then continue to improve their solutions without having to ask for extra money. A good vendor will focus on lowering the costs and not try to upsell new opportunities as they arise.

Final thoughts – don’t be nickel-and-dimed

You need a solution that will meet your needs straight out of the box. It should be a ready-to-go turnkey solution that will make you satisfied in the knowledge that you have all you need to be able to solve any business problem – all while paying a reasonable sum. You also need your vendor to incorporate new additions into your product as they arrive without it costing you more. It's vital not to settle when you're looking for a vendor. If the vendor doesn't look out for your and your customers' interests, can you call them a partner?

If you are having issues with your vendors, please contact us at any time. We want to be sure you're getting what you're paying for.

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Your Vendors: How To Manage Them

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When a Business relationship with vendors is good, it can form a strong and strategic partnership that strengthens and develops your business.

Many businesses don't have the capability or skills that are needed to build marketing and sales in their business plans. Vendors can support businesses in this area. Vendors have the resources to tap into their expertise and provide guidance on how your business can promote your services. A vendor can give advice on which marketing goals should be a priority.

Establishing solid relationships with your vendors is crucial to staying competitive. This is true in both customer service and business growth. Take care of them and they will take care of you.

Two-sided relationships 

The relationship isn't a one-sided one. Both you and the Vendor need to engage with one another to establish in-depth growth and development plans. Hold one another accountable. Vendors can also help businesses execute strategic plans by providing services that may be out of reach. These could be marketing resources or technical recommendations. Vendor partnerships with strong foundations also lead to efficiency in operations. Having a good vendor allows you to reduce the number of resources required with simpler, automated processes. As you can tell, this is good for your bottom line.

A positive vendor lifts you up 

Vendors have lots of expertise and valuable advice to share with you. Whether they're forthcoming or not depends on the relationship you have with them. Just like any working relationship, a relationship between a business and a vendor is not just transactional. The traditional format of the vendor-buyer relationship is no longer enough to stay competitive. You both need to go much deeper than that. To have a vendor that lifts you up requires you to establish a two-way relationship and dialogue. Strive to help each other.

Both parties have key responsibilities. Vendors should listen to their clients to discover what services, support, and products they truly want. You, on the other hand, should engage proactively with the Vendor to gain access to price promotions, bundles, and Marketing tools. This will help you provide better services to your clients and stand above your competition.

How can you get more out of your Vendor? 

Often, small businesses don't have enough budget or time to plan and carry out marketing programs on a big scale. Vendors can plug this gap. You can ask vendors how they invest in making their client network a success. Another question to ask is, do they create activities for lead generation? To help support the vendors become actively involved in their promotions.

You need to work to make the most out of your vendor partnership. When dealing with a Vendor, articulate your needs clearly. In turn, your Vendor has to make it easy for you to have access to the materials and resources you need to sell your services. There is no place for being timid here. Ask the Vendor how they can help you and what the available support is. Examples of this might include payment plans with added flexibility or discounts to help with your cash flow.

Build your relationship 

Often, business owners are quick to criticize a vendor for not providing or offering the support that was expected. We must remember that this is a reciprocal partnership and a two-way street. The relationship needs to work for both parties. Sometimes, owners find that their Vendor isn't creating the positive effect on their business that they would like. For this to happen, you must engage fully with the Vendor to set achievable, common goals. Spending time to establish the right partner is an investment SMBs often can't afford to miss. Having a trusted partnership with a vendor impacts your company's success.

Collaborate with technology 

Simply listing each other's company on your website is not a collaboration. For the relationship to go deeper, it should involve the integration of technology. An intertwined technological relationship will open up ways to create more innovative services. Your vendors have a larger budget for research and development than you do. Being collaborative as a technology partner is an important consideration that many businesses can benefit from.

What if your Vendor is negative to your day-to-day operations? 

Strive to build and maintain good relationships with vendors. Remember, vendors also have to play a positive role in the relationship. Some vendors aren't good for your business and it's important to work with the ones that are. As MSPinsights.com describes, sometimes vendors alienate themselves by offering "channel" products that mean they have direct contact with your clients. You might even find vendors that offer competing products to the end clients or require them to sign contracts. This kind of 'offer' often suggests that these vendors are not interested in treating your business as a legitimate partner.

Final thoughts 

For best results, you need to become your Vendor's favorite partner. Essentially, you've got to find someone who wants to build a partnership that works two ways. If you need a little help managing your vendors, remember that we can do that for you. Contact us and we’d be happy to get the ball rolling.

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Remote Working in Today’s World

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This is the final blog post in our series of four on the topic of remote and hybrid working. In it, we’ll summarize what we’ve talked about in the previous three blogs and finish with a quiz so you can see how much you’ve taken in.

The start of the Covid-19 crisis seems like it happened a long time ago.But these past 12 months or so have caused the biggest shift in working practices in modern times. Before 2020, few companies were offering their employees the chance to work from home. You'd see the occasional ‘hot desk’ company or the workers who logged onto coffee shop Wi-Fi for a change of scenery. Ultimately, though, remote working wasn’t common practice. 

A few stats

COVID-19 changed the way we do business. Social distancing caused us to modify the way we interact. Owners are deciding how things will look in a post-pandemic world. Some business owners seem to have a “trust” issue with employees they cannot keep an eye on. Many workers and businesses don't see a complete return to office working anytime soon.

Pre-pandemic, less than 20% of employees across the country worked from home.

Currently, up to 70% of employees work from home at least one day a week. And that number is expected to grow.

Surprisingly, almost 50% of businesses in the U.S. do not allow their employees to work remotely. There are many reasons for this, but the number one reason is usually this: productivity.

However, the statistics show a completely different story. Several studies came to the same conclusion; remote workers have less unproductive time, work more hours per week, and are up to 47% more productive than the workforce in the office.

Moving forward, we see more of a hybrid model taking place. Many businesses were able to downsize their office space, so they can’t bring everyone back. And, the fact is, the employees are getting used to the new arrangement. At least 50% of remote employees wish to remain remote, even after the pandemic has run its course.

The benefits of remote work

Forced to adopt the practice of remote working, many businesses call it a success.What started as a challenge has turned out to be a benefit. Mostbusinesses are planning to keep their employees remote at least on a part-time basis. 

This means companies have had to improve the performance of their networksTheir IT infrastructure has changed to be more efficient. MSPs have certainly played a role in this and have had a big part in improving the IT systems for businesses around the world.

Small and large companies have turned to MSPs to help them with their IT needs during the pandemic.These MSPscan access the latest technology and offer 24-7 support, Around-the-clock supportisn’t possible with in-house IT teams who work 9-to-5.

Remote working risks revealed

Of course, with such changes, companies have experienced the downsides to remote working too. With remote workers, there’s often a higher risk of cyberattacks or security breaches. MSPs have helped in this regard too. They monitor for threats, back up data, and give peace of mind that they're always on the lookout for threats.

After the Pandemic

Many companies have enjoyed the new way of working more than theyanticipated in the first place. With the experience and confidence in remote working, it is thought that many companies will strive to keep at least some aspect of remote working going forward. And it will remain even once the pandemic has ceased. 

Hybrid working means different things for different companies but essentially, employees have more freedom as to their working pattern. They might be required to work in-house for one or two days a week and be at home the rest of the time, for example. There are lots of ways in which hybrid working might work but it is likely to mean that there isn’t as much need for office space in the future. With hybrid working being highly likely, we expect to see an increase in Managed IT services too.

MSPs and the hybrid workforce

Many companieshad to adapt during the pandemic, but so did MSPs. It could be said that their challenge was greater in some ways, given that they had to learn and adapt quickly so that they could help their clients more efficiently.

MSPs were able to help companies be available for their clients with great success and have shown how they are key partners in a company’s functionality. That’s not to say that MSPs have taken over and there is no need for in-house IT teams, quite the opposite. MSPs’ work complements that of existing in-house teams. 

Conclusion – remote work in today’s world, is it for you? If you have any questions about supporting a hybrid workforce please contact us. As a Managed Service Provider, we can help you find the perfect solution. Remember: we’re your business growth partner, so take advantage of our knowledge.

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