What Issues are Small Businesses Facing in 2020?
Dan: So how you guys been this past week?
Vince: Oh great.
Vince: Chiefs won the super bowl.
Dan: They did.
Vince: That's fantastic.
Dan: We were talking about that. They came from behind. Did you watch the whole game?
Vince: I did. What a great game!
Dan: I didn't get to see the whole thing, but I did get to see the fourth quarter and by all accounts that was the quarter to watch.
Vince: Yeah, it was. In the beginning, it kind of stayed 10 /10 at the half.
Vince: Then they moved ahead man. It was just a great game. I really loved it and I'm really happy for the chiefs, it's been a while. It's their turn and so I'm excited.
Dan: Yeah, me too. It was great to see the coach finally win a super bowl and as a matter of fact, I'll just get to throw it out there, that coach said, " You know what, if I get invited to the White House, we're going ", how about that? I love that.
Vince: That is awesome.
Dan: The players are behind it. Finally you're not going to have somebody dissing on our president. They going be like, " Hey, we're going to Superbowl winners. We're going to go anywhere, anybody invites us to, we're going to be there. Especially the White House."
Dan: I love that about those.
Vince: I do too. Unlike Jay-Z and Beyonce who chose to sit during the National Anthem.
Dan: Yeah, it wasn't a real big fan about that. It was almost a slap in the face to the singer too.
Vince: Yeah. Absolutely.
Dan: Which is one of one of their fellow singers in their genre of music. So how up out that stuff? All right guys, let's just get right to it.
Vince: So we want a talk-
Announcer: Bit-Wizards Bits and Bites.
Vince: All right, now we're ready. We want to talk about some of the top challenges for small businesses and Spiceworks is one of the companies that we get information from and they rate, in this case, small businesses of size one person to 99 in North America and rated their top five IT challenges. Number one, 49% of them was keeping IT infrastructure up to date. Number two again, 49% balancing IT tasks and improvement projects. Number three 47%, upgrading outdated software. Number four 48%, following best security practices. Number five 30%, convincing it business leaders to prioritize IT.
Vince: If you look at that, 50% of those are things that can be automated or configured and it's part of what we do at Bit-Wizards for our clients. We let the systems and processes do most of the work. I'm going to turn it over to Sam and let him talk to you about one of the tools that we use, which was an RMM.
Sam: Yeah, an RMM is a industry term inside of IT, it stands for Remote Monitoring and Management of devices. A lot of people, if you think about it, they have multiple computers in their environment. They might have some servers as well, maybe a couple of Macs thrown in there in the marketing team. Then you've got a bunch of workstations out there and the question comes, how do I make sure that everybody has the same tools on their machines? Or how do I make sure nobody's saving things they shouldn't be saving to their work computers? How do I make sure that somebody isn't taking a work information with them on the way? An RMM or Remote Management Monitoring tool, it's something that gets installed on all of the different devices in an organization, not just on a single network and it keeps an eye on all of the different moving parts and there's a couple of different elements. That one of those is governance. You can use this tool then to put some rules in place and enforce some compliance across the board, make sure everybody's doing business the way they're supposed to be doing within the organization. Make sure they got the software that they need as well. It does. It helps ensure compliance. If you have any kind of government regulations about the industry that you're in about what you can and can't do in your network, then this helps enforce those rules. Maybe the last but most exciting part of that is, it enables automation. So let's say I've got to update the printer driver on everybody's computers. Normally that would mean me moving up to them right in the middle of someone getting some work done, tap them on the shoulder and then do the Jimmy Fallon IT guy, move and then push them out of the way and then I'll update the printer driver and then once I'm done, then they can go back to working on their computer. I go to the next person to do the same thing and the next person to do the same thing. That's very disruptive. With an RMM tool. With some sort of remote management, I can say, " Well, I need to push this printer driver to everybody and I'm going to do it at two o'clock in the morning while I'm not even here." I'll get it all set up ready to go, and then when everyone comes to work in the morning, everybody's computer has the same printer drivers. Everything's up to date.
Sam: The same with software, with any of these different technology tools and tasks that we have to do on a regular basis.
Dan: Something like that, when you're talking about, does it have perimeters that you can only go to certain sites and does it monitor all of that as well?
Sam: Absolutely. Yes, that's where the compliance portion of this comes in. Some of it comes from the RMM tool itself where we can enforce some rules that says if you try to go to this website, some organizations by government compliance rules, they have to only allow people to go to certain websites and have to block everything else.
Sam: We can do that either on the firewall level or we can do it through these RMM tools to ensure that people can stay compliant with where they need to be for their organization.
Dan: It probably keeps organizations with their employees going, " Well, we're know they're working because they're not going over to these other sites."
Sam: That's exactly right. Yep,
Vince: This is why we choose to use commercial grade software and specifically the Microsoft 365 inside of those systems are the security center and the compliance center, of which there are a series of templates that we can go in and configure to make sure that everybody's account is configured exactly the same way. To make sure that overall at the organizational level, that you're following the best security practices, be it for passwords or be it for what types of, everybody has to have antivirus on there for their mail, those types of things. The other thing that we look at automating is your antivirus and we do it at different levels and that means keeping up to date. A lot of people think, " I just install some antivirus and I'm good to go." It just doesn't work that way because you need to constantly have a team, which most of the commercial antivirus software folks do, that constantly look at all of the different threats and things that are going on and put out updates and patches, so they can look at the signatures of those particular viruses or particular types of malware attempts, things like that and it gets updated automatically in your various antivirus softwares. We do this at three different levels. We do it at the firewall, which is the perimeter where it kind of comes in. Think of that like your wall around your fortress. Then we do it at your email, which is another place, we do it both on the server side and the client side and then also on your individual devices. So there's more than one type of antivirus. People think, " Oh I just put antivirus on my machine, I'm good to go across the board." It's not. You need multiple levels of security and have it in place and then making sure that those patching, those updates that you need to make sure that your antivirus is current and up to date are automatically running and get done. There's a number of folks that think that in IT, " If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Just leave it how it is. That is not the state that we're in today. Today, you've got to stay up to date, in the moment all the time, every minute because you've always got to be vigilant.
Dan: So it's three different protections. You have to stay updated on all three of those?
Vince: Yes sir.
Dan: How do you stay up with all this? I guess maybe you guys don't but you hire somebody who does or you get the antivirus or do you run that yourself?
Sam: We run that ourselves and we update those antiviruses every single day for all of our clients. In fact, we put antivirus on every single one of our client's networks and we put the firewall in place with antivirus built into that and we set them up with a virus protection in their email right out of the gate and we update them constantly and we run them all the time to make sure there's nothing getting through, nothing coming in and nothing going out. Vince was even talking about those rules we put in place for email. Even at Bit-Wizards, if someone wants to attempt to send an email and it contained a social security number or a credit card number, our email system will stop it before the email even gets outside of the building and say, " You're not supposed to be sending this." There's a good reason we don't allow these types of things. Instead, you should go to the website and enter the credit card-
Dan: It can actually identify that like a social security number or whatever you tell it to identify?
Sam: Absolutely, yep. In fact, we can even apply some templates to those email rules about certain standards like HIPAA violations or NIST compliance or the FARS or all of these different compliance. We can say, " I'm going to take this template and apply it to our email and now it won't allow us to email anything that would violate a HIPAA violation or a HIPAA compliance-"
Dan: Like a picture of like Sam in his underwear.
Dan: Those pictures going out.
Sam: That's right.
Dan: I gotcha.
Sam: Taking up the internet.
Dan: Just think of all the good press you'd get for that one. All right, that sounds pretty cool guys.
Announcer: Bit-Wizards. What's up our sleeve?
Vince: Right here?
Dan: He's got long sleeves on again today. So what could be up there, Vince?
Vince: I don't know. People processes and technology. Oh my, that is a drum beat for business and especially for businesses that want to be successful. Typically businesses today, if they want to do well, they need agility and flexibility. So at the center of this, what we're telling people, and if you go out there and do any research on, where is small business, where is big business, where things going? Is that they making technology, the center of their business strategy, the biggest sales, the largest marketing campaigns, the most understanding of your customer service. All these initiatives are going to fail with that reliable and efficient technology. You can't do that overnight and in software there's a thing called continuous integration and continuous delivery and it integrases change in sort of a an iterative way. Businesses are taking that and they're expanding that outside technology and applying it within their business. That constant iteration and improvement, which turns to introspective.
Sam: Absolutely. The old school method of writing software was, you'd have a team and they would be working, working, working, and then they would release the version 1. 0 of their software and then you'd have a small part of that team would continue to fix any little bugs that come up while the rest of the team is working on 2.0 of the software. Maybe two years from now, we'll have all of the new features and all the new things and we'll release that as well. Then a two years after that we'll come out with a new version. You see it with operating system updates. This new system is the continuous integration, continuous deployment or continuous delivery where, as soon as we make a change, we deliver it. As soon as we make a change, we test it and we deploy it and as Vince is saying, it doesn't just apply to software, it now applies to just business processes in general to say, is this working, is it not working? So we'll try a new piece of technology within our organization and rather than saying, " Well, we're bought in now this is it for the next 10 years ", instead of having this attitude of, " Well let's try this out in a small subset of our client base or on a certain part of our website." All of the different areas that your technology interacts with them and having this attitude of being proactive rather than reactive. Instead, the word there about the center of your business strategy and I think, oftentimes in business we are just doing, we're just keeping things going and handling calls as they come in and doing the work and getting it out the door. So we end up being very reactive and saying, " Well, we got a virus and now we've got to hire someone to come in and try to clean up all our computers and get this ransom ware off." Instead of being proactive and saying, " What technology is available, what tools are available to us that we can do to increase our market share, to better reach our clients or to better shore up our own internal security " and having this concept of this continuous improvement process of deploy it, evaluate it, and then make any changes you need to on the fly.
Dan: That makes a lot of good sense because you can keep on going with your business where you guys make sure they don't get the ransom ware and everything else. So you protect them against this so they can concentrate on their business versus trying to protect themselves.
Vince: Absolutely. Here on the Gulf Coast, we tend to kind of be a little stationary in the way that we look at things. Again, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I try to tell people is that you need to have a growth mindset, you need to have a mind of constant improvement. And that's not just about it. That's constantly in your business. I tell all of our engineers, you've got to constantly reinvent yourself. The market's changing and a record pace and if you want to stay ahead of the game, if you want to service your customers, you've got to have a growth mindset. You've got to try things, learn from failure, take those things, integrate new things into your business at a constantly all the time, little micro improvements. I tell people is that doing nothing is not an option, especially with IT. It can only make things worse and it puts you in a situation that you can't get out of. I told somebody the other day, if you don't take care of this hard drive that's failing and you keep asking us to put a band-aid on it, eventually it's going to fail to the point that I can't recover your data and now you've got a real problem. So some things that we try to tell people do, one, get professional help, get somebody to come in that knows this stuff and works on it all the time. Not just IT, but other things in your business. If you have HR needs or you need to improve the leadership within your organization or you need to improve the marketing, get professional help. Adopt a continuous change and improvement mindset. Quit the, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it '. That's the old way of thinking about things. You've got to constantly prove and go ahead. With IT, we say we want you to do some things that we were just talking about before. We want you to automate your IT functions because you can't keep up with it all. You get that professional help to help you automate the IT functions.
Vince: We want you to automate a number of your security functions and those things, again, you talk about that iterative change and that iterative improvement.
Vince: Then lastly, train your people. You can't expect your people, you may have a growth mindset in your business, but you've got to turn around and take the time to instruct and train your people on how things have changed.
Dan: Some people are very resistant to change like that and updates. So you probably have to push it and that's up to you guys though because you're the ones who probably train, right? You're training the business owners on how all this change takes effect and upgrades and they've got an intern train their people or do you train the whole organization if need be?
Sam: We do it a little bit of both of those actually.
Dan: You do?
Sam: As a trusted advisor to our clients, we sit down with every one of our clients once a quarter and we sit down and we evaluate how the state of their IT is, what the last quarter, last year has looked like and some we look trends for their industry specifically and see where it's going. Then we sit down with the owners of the business and say, where are you going as a business and how can we help you? Because it is a constant iterative process and we get ourselves involved in that. Then when new technology comes out, a lot of times we'll do like a lunch and learn with a lot of our clients or even in the community, we send out regular emails with little videos on how to do things in the new technology out there because to us, we agree exactly what you said, " Let our clients do what they do really, really well and let us handle the stuff that we do well so that they don't have to worry about it." So rather than having your employees digging around, trying to figure out, what was that thing in Excel, I saw somebody do this, this one time in Excel and you just punch in a bunch of numbers and then this other thing comes out and there's a chart. Instead we like to come in and help instead of someone having to sit there and wrack their brains or search on YouTube to try to find the right answer on YouTube university. Instead they can speak to us and we can definitely help them in all of those areas, in improving their technology across the board and making their team members more productive.
Dan: You know what's amazing to me about you guys is that you do IT and you take care of all the technology, but you must have to, with each client, you must have to dig into each client's business and figure out what software, what works for their particular realm of business.
Sam: Absolutely, yeah.
Dan: If you will, instead of just one idea fit's everybody, you've got to customize that to every single customer.
Sam: I agree completely. In fact, the technology stacks we try to use that are general enough that they can help lots and lots of people, but then where they are customizable enough that we can make them specific to each client. When we sit down and say, how does your business run? If you're an event rental business, how does that work? If you're a short term vacation home rental business, how does your business work? How do other people do it? How to competitors do it? If you're a kitchen and bath company designing cabinets for a kitchen, you have very different business processes. One of our clients is a fire department and their hiring process usually takes 18 months from the start of when they start interviewing people to when they actually get hired. They usually hire one or two people a year and it usually takes them about two years to get them trained and onboarded and the onboarding costs for that employee might be $60, 000 let's say, and then we have another company that might be able to spin up a new employee within 10 minutes of them coming onboard and they're already ready and they're already working and they got a laptop, and then if things don't work out, they can be out the door again within a few minutes. All of these different business models and processes, we have to be able to adapt the tools that we have to help in each of those areas because for one person, security might be the tantamount. This is what we've got to focus on. We work with government defense contractors, we have to make sure we have everything secure. Whereas for another company, agility might be their key factor, that they need to be able to move and pivot on a dime and be able to change things up as they go. They less worried about security or more worried about their agility.
Dan: Your service is invaluable to a company in my opinion.
Vince: Yeah. I also want to point out that this isn't a problem just for a small business. It's also a problem for large businesses and medium businesses. I met yesterday with the VP IT for a large credit union in Pensacola. He's got a large staff and we were speaking with him about business analytics and some predictive intelligence. One of the things he mentioned to me about new technology adoption is his team was smart, but they often don't know what they don't know. When the new technology comes out, they don't know all the right buttons to push, they don't know all the right things to set up. The issue is that technology is complex and so even a big company like that reached out to say, this is why they're bringing in Bit-Wizards. We can help them automate and accelerate their adoption of things, and because staying at the bleeding edge of technology is part of our business, right?
Vince: His job is to manage an IT department within a credit union. He's got to stay technologically ahead, but he doesn't have the time to dig in, dig deep. He's in the operations and maintenance, those types of things, so he brings a company like ours in to come and help. This is what we try to do for our small businesses as well. Bring that bleeding edge, tell them when it's time to adopt it, when it's time to stay at the butt of the shaft or go all the way to the very front.
Dan: So you tell them, this is what you need and I can help you with this.
Dan: So you do a lot of analysis on a lot of companies, a lot of different companies to find out where you would fit in, to be able to, in this case, augment what they've already got, it's to make it even better.
Vince: Yeah. It's like putting your mouth on a fire hydrant, turn it on and trying to catch all the water. It's true.
Dan: Yeah. That's a good analogy. I don't think I'd want to try that one so let's just bypass that one all together. Unless you have a jalapeno pepper then it might be. Hey good guys, this is good this morning. I like this.
Announcer: Bit-Wizards. From the spell book.
Sam: From the spell book is where we define some technology or geek speak that you might hear when you hear a different IT conversations. Today's one is Technology Stack. In fact, I even said a little earlier about the tool stack that we use and what a Technology Stack is, is thinking of your technology as an ecosystem rather than a specific program or a specific piece of hardware. It's a crucial part of any technology environment, is thinking of the entire ecosystem and how the different parts interrelate with each other.
Sam: Technology stack is really a crucial part of developing any web or mobile application. People refer to the term when speaking of this combination of programming languages and software underneath a development project in question. In software, the technology used in the application development can have a big effect on how the app works and how it will behave in the future. At Bit-Wizards, mobile apps is one of the things that we do. When we design a mobile app, we don't say, " Oh this one's only for iPhone." I have seen a few of those out there. In fact, in the early days of smart phones, you would have an app that was only on Android or only on iPhone and we've said, " No, we're looking at the entire stack here." So when we develop mobile apps, we make sure that app will run on an Android phone on an iPhone or sometimes even on some old legacy windows phones that are still out there in the wild. Utilizing the full stack of technology available to us.
Dan: It hasn't always been that way, has it? In the past it was always, like for phones and for example, it only worked for an iPhone, only worked for an Android or something. So now you're getting away from that and you're getting one app that works for everybody.
Vince: That's exactly right. Like most terminology in IT, it has more than one meeting. We've talked a little bit about how it applies to software and software development, but in IT there's many different components to a network from security, to how it's navigated. A technology stack also describes the layering of those components like data management, logins and retention. One of the stacks that you'll often hear some time, it's called the LAMP stack, which stands for the Linux Operating System, and it means that you're using Apache web server and My SQL for the database, PHP or Python for your coding environment. At Bit-Wizards, what we typically do is use the Microsoft stack, and within the Microsoft stack there's multiple different, depending upon where you're thinking. You need to understand your stacks.
Dan: So you're trying to kind of compatibility sort of issue, sounds like.
Vince: It is. Compatibility is an issue. A total cost of ownership. If you've got something over here that's all Linux and something over here that's Microsoft, something over here, God forbid you're still on Novell. We were just joking the other day, I walked into an organization and looked over the side and they still had old IBM token ring network from the 1980s. I was like, " You got to be kidding me." They weren't using it, but the stuff was still in the wall and I thought, " Man, you guys need to get your wiring pulled out and get a new building."
Dan: There's a museum over here. That's crazy. You're talking Linux. I didn't know that many people were still using Linux. Is that still very big. I know there was a lot of big corporations that were using Linux at one time. Is that still the case?
Sam: A lot of the internet is still running on Linux.
Dan: Is it?
Sam: That LAMP stack that Vince was talking about is Linux, Apache, My SQL and PHP. Facebook is running PHP and so on the backend of that are a lot of large Linux servers because they're easy to spin up and you don't pay for the operating system. It is open source. What you pay for is for the support that comes to the operating system to get some experts in there to help you kind of thing and Microsoft and their Azure Cloud platform, I think roughly over a third of it now is Linux, which is crazy. You would think, well that's Microsoft's competitor. Why would they run their Cloud technology without Windows? Windows is the core of everything Microsoft does. Even they've looked at and said, " Let's work on our different stacks here and make our tooling available for the widest range of people that could use the technology we have."
Vince: That's part of that growth mindset we were talking about. Growth mindset is something that's Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, he came in and changed the way that Microsoft thought about things. He embraced multiple different technologies. He embraced the iPhone, he embraced the Windows phone. He embraced Android and said, " We want to empower everyone on the earth to do more. we don't care about what the technology is ", and so they've spent a lot of time making sure that Microsoft technologies inter-operate with other technology. So they've embraced Linux, they've embraced Oracle, they've embraced a SAP, and a lot of people don't realize this. It's a huge change.
Sam: Absolutely. Yep.
Dan: That's kind of interesting. We don't have a lot of time, but when they integrate with Apple, is Microsoft like integrating with Apple? I know you can get some apps right or you get some programs that work for both.
Sam: In fact, that was one of the first things Satya Nadella did when he took over the reigns of Microsoft is, he released Office to work on Windows, on Mac, on iPhone, on Android and it'd be the same experience across the board. A lot of people cried heresy back in the day when it first happened. They're basically saying, " We don't really care where you are working, what you're working on, we just want to make sure that you have the technology available to be able to do what you need to do to get it done." So that stack changes across the board and they've said, " Let's embrace that." Even a Bit-Wizards, we do the same thing. Some of our clients, we're a Microsoft shop very much through and through. Some of our clients are all Mac environments and we're able to use the same tools that we have, those RMM tools work on the Macs as well as they do on the PCs and on the high end servers and on that one server in the back collecting dust, but it still has that one thing that the company relies on. We use the same tools across the board.
Vince: The one thing that interoperability does, it makes it easier for the end user to operate their stuff, but on the backside for the technology folks, it greatly increases the complexity of the things that we need to consider and think about when we have folks working together.
Dan: Very cool man. That's very, very interesting. We're getting close to time. Would you like to talk about one of your clients?
Sam: I would. I love this part. I love getting to talk about the clients we get to work with and today I want to give a big Bit-Wizards thank you and a shout out to our customer Linn's Prestige Kitchen out here in Fort Walton Beach and over in Destin. I want to say thank you to John and Sherry Linn and the whole team over at Linn's Prestige Kitchens for choosing Bit-Wizards. I sat down with Zach Linn, I don't even know how long ago it was and we started talking business and that very thing you were talking about, learning how the businesses work. We started talking shop a little bit about kitchen and bath cabinet designs and I had some questions about how they do business. Having met some other people in the industry well and talking about some of their software that they use that I was familiar with. You may not know this, but they are an award winning company. They won, they were number one in the nation. They got an award for Budget Friendly Design and from the National Kitchen and Bath Association. They are a forward thinking, fast paced, rapidly expanding company. They are true craftsman and what I love is that they embrace technology. We sat and worked with them on making sure that their technology helps them do what they need to get done.
Dan: Well guys, we're about out of time. Sounds like you really get involved in your businesses. Bit-Wizards, we're out of time for this Tuesday, but we'll be back next Tuesday at 8:30. Vince, Sam, thanks for coming in.
Sam: Thank you very much.
Vince: Thank you very much.
Dan: I appreciate you guys.