SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Death by 1000 Cloud Apps

“There’s an app for that.” We’ve all heard it: the jingoistic catchphrase Apple users have been repeating for years. It’s consumer-oriented marketing drivel, but it’s powerful drivel because it carries more than a grain of truth. It’s also becoming true in the business market as app proliferation spreads exponentially with the addition of hundreds or even thousands of new offerings each year.

The examples are too easy to point out. Which public cloud vendor are you using, Microsoft, Amazon, Google? Or are you going with a smaller vendor or a private cloud or no cloud at all? Which BDR solution do you prefer? Which PSA? Which RMM? Which office productivity package? Which phone system? Which security vendor? There are dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of vendors offering each of these solutions.

Businesses are presented with the ever increasing challenge of selecting the best app for their business, no mean task considering the proliferation of apps that take vertical segmentation to an extreme. That done the challenge is passed along to the IT support team – whether internal or an outsourced service provider like a VAR or MSP – who then has to install and maintain the new solution.

Intermedia  and Osterman Research have released a new study and infographic that highlights the problem for SMBs. The report, “Death by 1000 Cloud Apps,” found that the average SMB is managing more than 14 cloud apps, with an average of 5.5 apps per user. According to the report, this leads to four main problems for SMBs:

Too much choice – Teams can spend months of valuable time vetting and deploying all of these cloud apps, distracting them from their most important goals/responsibilities.

Too much to manage – Once deployed, these apps must be managed, and that time adds up fast; if you have 15 people using the average of 5.5 apps each, that’s 82.5 accounts that will need to be managed on an ongoing basis.

Too many logins – This impacts team productivity outside of IT as well. It takes an average of 20 seconds to login to an app; that means that a 75-person SMB can rack up more than 570 wasted hours and $13,900 per year in lost productivity.

Too much risk – When forced to choose between security and productivity, security usually takes a back seat. This leads to lazy, risky password selections that are easily breached, leaving companies at risk.

Michael Osterman“The fundamental issue here is that organizations are losing control over their content and their ability to control applications use,” says Mike Osterman, adding that in many small organizations people download their own apps, creating a bring-your-own-app situation much like the Bring Your Own Device movement that has played havoc with IT infrastructures over the past three years. Osterman calls it “BYOA” (app) or “BYOC” (cloud).

For example, some who needs to share large files might install Dropbox. But what if the person in the next cubicle prefers Google Drive? Or Skydrive? Or SugarSync? Or SpiderOak? Or iCloud? Or LogMeIn Cubby? get the idea.

While the ability to simply go out, find what you need and use it makes individuals more efficient, it causes serious problems for organizations, says Osterman. “Now if you have to search for that content it’s going to be very difficult. If you have to find content to respond to a lawsuit or maybe an employee has left the company, you can’t find their work. And from a security perspective if you have multiple apps in use, especially doing the same things, you have a lot more attack surface.

“The fundamental issue is that most orgs want to get away from this problem. They want to consolidate on a smaller number of apps. It’s just that they don’t know where to start.”

So how do you address the problem without denying staffers the value offered by the apps in question?

“We recommend that don’t start with a vendor, but rather start with a policy,” counsels Osterman. “Find out what (your staffers) are using and why and then use that to develop a policy that will provide the functionality they need. It starts with sitting down and thinking about the issue in a really cohesive way.”

Michael-Gold-120x120Another solution is to pass the whole problem off to a vendor like Intermedia, which simplifies app management by doing all the selection, integration and management work for you and provides an all-inclusive service with a single sign-on. The SMB gets a single subscription service which includes most of the major applications – email, conferencing, security, collaboration, telecommunications, etc.

“If you’re a SMB the value we provide is that rather than having to go out to 12 different vendors, negotiate the deal, migrate people, deal with multiple support organizations and multiple control panels, we provide all that in a tightly integrated way. All the apps work with each other,” says Intermedia CEO Michael Gold.


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Continuum makes play to simplify the public cloud for MSPs

According to research completed last summer by Wakefield Research and Citrix as little as 16 percent of your SMB customers might actually understand what the cloud is. Twenty-eight percent of survey respondents said that it was weather-related (literally a cloud in the sky) while another 17 percent...well, the less said about their responses the better. Suffice it to say they were wrong.

The numbers are probably better now, almost a year later but the cloud has gotten more complex too. The big public cloud providers – which are gearing their services to large enterprises which have proportionally large IT staffs – have stuffed their offerings with hundreds of solutions and it’s your job as their IT guru to help them navigate that morass.

That’s why Continuum launched the Continuum Cloud Console – C3 for short – this week. C3 is an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) management platform that helps MSPs unlock the value of the public cloud for SMBs by streamlining the congested world of the public cloud.

dee-zepf“We’ve simplified the complexity of the choices out there,” said Dee Zepf, Continuum’s Vice President of Product Management and Technical Services at Continuum. Essentially, C3 preselects the solutions that are going to make the most difference for SMBs and excises the rest, decluttering the process for MSPs.

C3 – which provides cloud service management through the same pane of glass used by the company’s existing RMM solution, thus putting everything on one screen for techs – is initially limited to Amazon Web Services (AWS), but Zepf says that she expects to roll out enhancements every quarter going forward, including Google, Azure and other large public cloud offerings.

Tim Lasonde, president of Boston-based NSK Inc., which is focused on providing IT services to SMBs, says the conversation about the public cloud comes up with customers all the time, especially when a client is due for a technology refresh.

As a member of Continuum’s Partner Advisory Council, one of the partners who beta tested the C3 offering and an existing Amazon Web Services partner, Lasonde has some keen insights on the value of a service like C3.

“Working with Amazon can be a bit of a daunting process. They are big player and have a lot of offerings. It’s such a disruptive technology. There are a lot of different ways to implement it,” he says. “I think one of the reasons C3 is a good product is because it helps smaller MSPs that don’t really have the time to invest in figuring out all the options.”

Tim LasondeLasonde adds that considering the rapidity with which customers are moving towards buying services through the cloud, getting up to speed on these services is critical for MSPs in the evolving IT landscape. The very public price war driving costs down across the board is certainly a factor driving interest.

On the one hand, this is helping us get new clients over and above existing customers, he says, but MSPs really do need to look at this for their customers because if they don’t then someone else will or the customers will do it for themselves.

Right now anyone can go online and order Office 365, but someone still needs to manage that and controlling how the SMB is exposed to the value these services deliver allows the MSP make sure it’s own value proposition is included in the message.

“Sure customers can go online and purchase O365 and stuff like that,” says Lasonde. “But when it comes to managing it, like migrations, that requires some skill and some training. There are a lot of pain points. It’s not the kind of thing that the average SMB wants to do. That’s where we can add a lot of value.”

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Cbeyond Reveals Top 5 Cloud Resource, Time-Saving Tips for SMBs

Cbeyond yesterday revealed its top five tips to help SMBs save resources dedicated to managing and maintaining cloud servers before, during or post cloud implementation. The guidelines, part of Cbeyond's "Technology Ally" best practices series, are designed to help SMBs realize the full potential of their IT investments and better serve customers.

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