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.

Rethinking Customer Support with Office 365 and TouchPoint Agent

by Jon Arnold

As businesses shift to the cloud, the combination of Microsoft Office 365 and Skype for Business (SfB) Online provides a powerful solution for workplace communications. The tight integration between these provides a rich set of both productivity applications and communications capabilities that can seamlessly be managed in the cloud. Not only does this make IT’s job easier, but there’s really no need to look elsewhere for third party UC platforms that may or may work well with your Microsoft environment.

For most businesses – especially SMBs – this would be enough to make a business case for going to the cloud with Microsoft. Jon Arnold headshot 002While this value proposition stands well on its own, it can be even stronger if you think just a bit more broadly. As you know, Microsoft has many partnerships to enhance their offerings, but one in particular is worth noting for taking O365 and SfB to another level.

In terms of supporting their customers, most SMBs have either limited or no contact center capabilities. The cost of entry is high, operational needs are complex, and IT must balance this with other priorities. That said, declining customer satisfaction ratings present a challenge to all businesses, and in today’s hyper-competitive market, reversing this trend is becoming a strategic priority for management.

While IT will be hard-pressed to get the resources needed to add or upgrade their legacy contact center, the cloud presents viable options that can bypass these obstacles. More specifically, for Microsoft users, TouchPoint Agent from Enghouse Interactive can make a good solution even better. Rather than focus on the attributes of a specific vendor, my focus here is to show how SMBs can get more value from Microsoft by rethinking their approach to customer support.

The first thing to recognize is that SMBs don’t always require a full-fledged contact center operation. Aside from the hefty financial requirements, these operations will generally require a purpose-built contact center platform, which then needs integration with your Microsoft environment.

A more practical approach is to set up a modest contact center that’s manageable today, but can be scaled up as needs dictate. Or, you could just have a simple help desk run within a department – even this level of effort can go a long way to improving customer service.

With that end result in mind, TouchPoint Agent is the kind of add-on that extends the value of your Microsoft investment beyond the workplace to include customer support. All within one platform, and all hosted in the cloud. In essence, TouchPoint Agent provides the advanced call management features needed in today’s contact center, such as intelligent call routing, call recording, CRM-driven screen pops, and rich presence for real-time management of call flows and agent support.

For many SMBs, these capabilities will be a major improvement, and represents a solution for improving customer service in ways that IT can support, and that management will understand. Being cloud-based, this approach doesn’t require any new infrastructure, and can be both deployed and scaled on the spot. On the technology side, what TouchPoint Agents brings is native Microsoft integration – especially between O365 and the phone system - making it easy to extend O365 and SfB from the workplace to the contact center.

With most contact center interactions being telephony-based, this is a great way to maximize the utility of SfB Online, and provide your customers with better-than-ever service. That’s a pretty strong return for enhancing your Microsoft environment with a single add-on, and it starts from rethinking customer support after tying all these elements together.

Jon Arnold is Principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent analyst providing thought leadership and go-to-market counsel with a focus on the business-level impact of disruptive communications technologies. Core areas of expertise include unified communications, cloud services, collaboration, Internet of Things, future of work, contact centers, customer experience, video, VoIP, and social media.

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Cloud Computing Security: How the Cloud keeps your Data Secure

It's your critical business data, secure It.

The most important part of a computer isn't the processor or RAM, it's the data.

Pictures, email, documents, records, files, passwords, it's all data. Keeping it safe is paramount in today's world.

For data security, it's hard to beat the cloud.

What Is The Cloud?

In simple terms, the cloud consists of computer servers maintained by an entity or cloud security 1company with an Internet connection in a secure location. With massive and multiple hard drives, they store and provide access to data.

For anyone with an Internet connection (via home Internet or cellular service), there is access to that data. For example, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox.

Advantages of Cloud Computing

Most people don't like keeping their own "things" in someone else's location. Data is no different. Who wants someone else holding their data? But there are advantages to using a cloud server for data, especially essential data.

Professional Management of Your Data

For those not in the field of IT, it's doubtful that we employ best practices for data safekeeping. Most of the data on our computers is stored in files without encryption and in directories easily located. Access to our computers is access to just about everything about us, including bank accounts, online accounts, friends, and relatives. It makes sense to put precious data in the hands of companies dedicated explicitly to securing it.

Constant, Secure Backup Off Premises

Most people don't think about data backup, but that doesn't make it any less important. Wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods do happen, and after a disaster has occurred is the wrong time to think about disaster recovery of your valuable data.

Cloud-stored data is not just "out there;" it's securely stored and backed up consistently.

Redundancy Means Reliability

Cloud storage is more than a single server. Most individuals, and even small businesses, store data in one location. Not the cloud.

A cloud service using best practices stores redundant data in at least two locations so that even if one location is inaccessible for some reason, your data is still safe.

Failure is Not an Option -- It's Inevitable

According to a 2013 article showing some extensive testing, 1 in 5 hard drives will fail within three years, and 1 out of 2 will fail within five years.

Randomly, there is a 1 in 8 chance that your hard drive will fail. That means anything you store locally is more likely to be lost within five years than not. Again, after the disaster occurs is no time to start worrying about data backup.

Spyware, Viruses, and Ransomware, Oh My!

For large companies (like Equifax, Target, Home Depot, etc.), hacking is the primary threat to data. For the rest of us, malware is our most significant threat, and especially ransomware as it threatens to lock or delete our data.

There are many methods for preventing ransomware, but the only failsafe way to preventing threats to your data is to have your data beyond threat.

A data backup, away from an infected computer, means that even if your computer gets infected, your data is safe and can be recovered. Threat neutralized.

Your Own DaVinci Code

During World War II the Nazis used the "Enigma machine" to send coded messages. Cloud data storage has its enigma machine for data, encryption.

Your connection to cloud data is only sent over secure connections using, in most cases, 128-bit or 256-bit encryption. How secure is that? A secure password using 128-bit, it would take more than 1 billion years to crack, even for a government agency. Next, to the PIN or weak password on a local computer, the difference in security is immeasurable.

Make it Rain! Or Maybe Just "Cloud"y

Moving data to the cloud is often a simple process, but it comes with a lot of considerations. Among those factors is choosing the provider. However, there are many more that you need to pay attention to as well.

Choosing Data

What data do you want in the cloud? Files, folders, or maybe even an entire image of the computer (files and operating system) can be backed up. And consider space too.

Pictures, video, data, and audio files can reach gigabytes of data in a hurry. If there is a business at stake as well, all of those files need to be securely stored in the cloud. Disaster recovery for business, no matter the size, is no small matter.

Cloud Pricing

Depending on what you send to the cloud, there may be a cost associated with it.

Free services are for personal use, not large companies. Often only offer limited space (under 20GB), which may hold your most essential files, but it certainly won't hold everything. The cost will increase the more you store and if you want several versions of it.

Don't sell yourself short to save a buck. Multiple backups (for file recovery) are worth it with a data center that specializes in cloud backup solutions..

To the Cloud...and Back

Don't forget your speed. Sending 300 gigabytes of data to the cloud, and retrieving it, can take a long time. Continual updates are also something to keep in mind.

Cloud backup needs a fast, reliable connection. You never know when you're going to need what you have or are sending to the cloud, so eliminating risk must be part of your consideration.

It's About the Security of Your Data

If your data is important at all, it needs to be secure.

Computer theft, computer failures, malware, natural disasters, and other problems make local data storage a risky business.

The cloud is, by far, the more reliable and secure data storage location for what matters to you most, your data.

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Guide to Build and Grow Your MSP Business in the Cloud


Did you know? The cloud presents an unprecedented opportunity to transform and scale your MSP business while saving costs for your customers, and it is easier to do than  you think.

Why haven’t you embraced the cloud yet?

The cloud is complex, and understandably provokes hesitation for anyone not well versed in cloud infrastructure and architecture, or computer engineering.  For some, it may even represent a deterrent to growth.  It is not.  It is a prime opportunity to grow your MSP business.

With a few clicks, you can grow your profit with cloud solutions. Offer existing clients a better, cheaper IT solution that can be bundled with additional services to grow your margin.  Expand your customer base and geographic footprint with cloud-based offerings and no need to maintain on-premises hardware. Leave behind a project-based mentality for a stable, predictable monthly recurring revenue subscription model. And a stronger, more valuable MSP business.

All of this is possible to you today.

Deliver cloud solutions without being a cloud expert. You don’t have to hire cloud experts, you don’t even have to invest a lot to retrain yourself or existing staff. In fact, automation in the cloud frees up resources from mundane management and maintenance tasks to instead allow a greater focus on customer growth and support.

Complex workloads and solutions like remote desktop and application delivery in the cloud can be achieved with just a few clicks. Sophisticated, enterprise-level security and compliance solutions are available to you. The cloud makes things easier.  It is time to embrace it.

This e-book overviews the benefits of the public cloud for you and your customers.  And outlines key considerations and options in planning your move to the cloud. Download here.


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WA SMB Cloud Summit- April 18, 2017

Editors Note - this is a excellent partner/customer event in the Seattle area in a month. Please support the community (and yes- you can bring your toughest questions about Azure in small business, etc.)

Your Business, Cloud Ready in 100 Days
A one day immersive experience designed to help you build not just the knowledge but a roadmap to becoming a cloud ready business. Cloud readiness means that you and your business have the ability to:

  • Generate new customers and recurring revenue
  • Quickly identify areas for Cloud investments
  • Strategically invest time and resources to build a Cloud Practice

SMB Cloudsummit 01

We are providing a proven model that will deliver results for you in terms of growth and help your customers transform their businesses.
This trusted methodology has been adopted by the Microsoft Partner Community and endorsed by leading Tech Companies, along with the Economic Development Commission of King County and Seattle and City of Bellevue. This summit is focused on supporting Independent Software Vendor, Resellers, Managed Services Provider, Cloud Startups and System Integrator to build and grow their cloud practices. Join us to learn how to become cloud competent partners with leading Cloud Technologies companies such as Microsoft, Salesforce, Google and others.

We have invited cloud experts who not only understand the cloud but have built their businesses on it. They will share knowledge, expertise and open the door for partnerships accelerate your cloud business.

Space is limited to 100 participants and will fill up fast.
Register -

Use Discount Code: SMBCLOUD to get 10% discount during the registration process.

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What is Amazon Web Service? Features explained

Over the years when digital world has taken revolution, Cloud Computing has grown tremendously as a service. Today it is described as one remote service to store, process and manage information. Cloud Computing is management of vast set of information infrastructures. It is management of information tools, systems and architectures.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been a recognized Cloud service provider since 2007. It operates from 16 different host destinations providing exclusive Cloud service to global clients. It features On-demand Cloud, Elastic Cloud Computing, Simple Storage, Internet of things and much more in comprehensive Cloud Computing.

What is AWS and what are its salient features is matter of our discussion. We will elaborate on AWS basics to make Cloud users a slight more aware about AWS.

Cloud Computing

Simple Storage and AWS

Simple storage (S3) through AWS means a highly flexible and always available web storage service. It is a round the clock service to store major sets of information in optimum time. Using S3 gives good flexibility in accessing data to any assigned URL. S3 provides effective access control with resourceful data protection. Robust backup and expiration times are further notable features of S3. It is simple and indeed very convenient to use.

Elastic Cloud Computing and AWS

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is a scalable technology that provides cloud computing to multiple virtual computers. Every virtual machine is assigned with an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) containing tools, infrastructure and any web service that is rented to machine’s user. For EC2 provision Amazon applies ‘Pay as you Go’ price model which means on-Demand computing service. EC2 caters and manages virtual machines that are provisioned independently and with frequent modifications. Instead of buying a conventional server during changing or unpredictable workload, EC2 is most preferred.


Internet of things (IoT) and AWS

Amazon IoT platform offers diverse and adaptive cloud computing, adapted by virtual user to connect their devices with cloud applications. Controlled interaction between devices is possible through AWS platform. IoT at AWS means organized exchange of messages between billions of devices at one time. Fast and effective exchange of trillions of messages is made possible through AWS IoT.

What have we Built

AWS IoT integrates with other devices for managing larger groups of data. It integrates with devices to build and organize IT infrastructures. For building web applications. AWS IoT effectively integrates with Amazon Dynamo, Amazon Machine Learning, S3 and Kinesis.

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Analysis: How Seattle became “Cloud City”

 Seattle is a great investment! Why? Because this city consistently reinvents itself. Follow the dots: timber to gold to aerospace to tech to cloud. I’ve enjoyed living here nearly 30 years and confirm that every time I land after a trip, realizing I’m home!
So what is Seattle’s secret sauce in becoming Cloud City? I’d offer competition. Both AWS and Azure were invented here. Hell even competitors like Google are now moving north to drink the water. I have a question for you before we discuss
the Seattle Time’s analysis.  Would you like a fall collaborative, Azure Nation, where we meet in Seattle for a multi-day event and discover what Azure is and is not. Would you like to see a shoot-out between Azure and AWS? Please join the conversation on our Facebook page so I can crowd source your interest level.
The Seattle Time’s article is an overview of the cloud computing sector and the customers (such as Boeing) that use cloud services. One takeaway is that Jeff Bzos, CEO of Amazon, proclaims “We got a seven-year runway. That’s almost unheard of. For years, we were kind of left alone.” True that but I’d offer he shouldn’t give up his day job as Microsoft is roaring back big time. And you know how Microsoft likes to start late and dominate even later.
Read the article here
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Email Archieving Best Practices!

Email archiving has been a best practice for many years across all industries, but particularly in heavily regulated industries like financial services, healthcare, energy,
life sciences, government and several others. Organizations have invested significantly in legacy WP Important Considerationarchiving platforms, many of which no longer adequately serve their needs in terms of performance, scale, compliance or feature sets.

Consequently, organizations must find a way to migrate their archived content to new platforms, either on-premises or in the cloud. The latter has become particularly important as a
driver for migration of archived content, since a growing proportion of organizations are moving to cloud-based email platforms, most notably Microsoft Office 365.

However, archive migration is not a simple task: in fact, it’s rather complex and requires considerable forethought and planning in order to migrate data reliably while also maintaining the integrity and preserving the full chain-of-custody for migrated data. Further complicating any migration effort is the need to maintain access to archived content for end users and other stakeholders, all while migrating data within a reasonable timeframe and with as little impact as possible on normal business operations.

Migrating from Exchange journal archives or other single instance archive formats to Office 365 – one of the most common types of archive migrations occurring today –
necessitates a paradigm shift because Office 365 does not use the single instance format used for the journal archive in Exchange. While a migration to Office 365 can be performed reliably and in a way that maintains chain-of-custody, it requires a unique approach that will minimize the impact on network bandwidth and that will permit an organization to retain its existing investments in eDiscovery and other
tools. (It is important to note that journal archive migration is different than migration of user archives, a distinction we discuss in this paper)

Download this white paper to learn; key reasons to consider a migration, critical issues to think about during planning & implementation, and the importance of maintaining compliance..


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Learn how to > Master Your Archive Migration and Move to Microsoft Office 365

What: A Microsoft Office 365 Migration Best Practice Breakfast Seminar
When: Weds 31st August, 08:30 to 11:00
Where: Microsoft Office, Johannesburg

If you’re thinking about a move to Microsoft Office 365, and want to ensure the fastest and most efficient migration – then this best practice seminar is for you. Event Header 220 x 150 for SMB

Hear from Microsoft about the key benefits of moving to the Cloud, as they are joined by TransVault, the leader in archive migration solutions and Soarsoft, a migration services expert, for a morning event at Microsoft South Africa.

Enjoy a complimentary breakfast while the gurus take you through the ways you can prepare for the challenges of moving enterprise email and data into Microsoft’s Cloud.

Aimed at messaging professionals, by attending this event you will learn:
• How to securely and accurately move legacy email records into Office 365 for a one-stop-shop regulatory experience
• Get an introduction: To the Cloud. From the Cloud. Leverage Microsoft Azure for a completely 'in Cloud' migration
• See how others have made their move and embraced the Microsoft Cloud



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Son – It’s Not Plastics. It’s Security

By: Harry Brelsford

An oft-quoted classic movie scene from “The Graduate” (1967) [] concerns a successful businessman giving career advice to 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) to go into plastics as a career choice. Fast forward the movie nearly 50-years and the prudent career choice is cloud security. It’s an evergreen that will bring you, the MSP/CSP/partner, great riches and professional satisfaction. Few would disagree in the magnitude of this opportunity.

A study by Symantec, the “Website Security Threat Report” is your key to transforming yourself into a component cloud security professional. As part of our SMB Nation mantra about “starting over,” the introduction of this report is very timely for all of us. Some of us remember watching “The Graduate” and the impact it had on the dialog of the late 1960s and 1970s. So this is a welcome geek reboot.

The paper, which you can download HERE, focuses much of its energy on the Heartbleed bug, which shook the foundation of Internet security. The authors have, quite frankly, selected a reference point we can all relate to as the incident happened within the last two years. But the paper is much more than a Heartbleed news recap. The point is that cyber criminals are busy making their own opportunities for exploitation, theft and disruption. Symantec contends and I concur that cyber criminals have become more professional, sophisticated and aggressive in their tactics to the detriment of businesses and individuals alike.

To manage your expectations as your both read and use this security paper to enhance your skills, understand that is it organized into two major areas:

  • Web Threats. High profile vulnerabilities (Heartbleed, ShellShock and Poodle) are reviewed to level set. Then vital solutions such as SSL and TSL certificates are discussed.
  • eCrime and Malware. This is truly an interesting part of the paper. Prices paid by underground entities for stolen identities, malware and e-crime services are holding steady due to high-levels of demand. Ransomware is getting nastier and increasing in volumes. The paper reports it has grown over 45X since 2013.

To continue this journey and to make yourself both security aware and security competent, download the paper HERE.

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Cloud marketplaces: Can channel partners make money?


by Lynn Haber
Senior Writer

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Channel partners can take advantage of many cloud marketplace options as part of their go-to-market strategies. Here's what you need to know to get started.

As the cloud and software as a service become more mainstream and businesses become more interested in cloud technologies, curiosity about cloud marketplaces -- think of an online storefront -- isn't far behind. That's why channel firms need to learn about cloud marketplaces and how to go about doing business in a cloud marketplace.

There are a dozen or so active cloud marketplaces -- some are independent, such as app directory companies GetApp and Capterra, both acquired by Gartner in 2015, while others are vendor-specific such as Salesforce AppExchange, IBM Cloud Marketplace, Oracle Cloud Marketplace and Dell Cloud Marketplace, among others. IT distributors, such as Avnet, Ingram Micro and Tech Data Corp., for example, also boast their own cloud marketplaces that offer cloud apps from dozens of vendors.

There are two key things that partners need to know about cloud marketplaces: They come in a variety of flavors and they offer partner firms a mechanism to sell a broader portfolio of services.

Thinking about a cloud marketplace as an online storefront, it may consist of aisles of cloud services that span the cloud spectrum: SaaS, infrastructure as a service and perhaps, platform as a service. So, for example, walk down the SaaS aisle and you might see a section of productivity apps, another section with unified communication apps and another with CRM apps. Also, in this storefront are cloud services offerings that are relevant to consuming those products, i.e., professional services, migration services, tier 1 and tier 2 support or bolt-on services such as change management, among others.

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Steps to manage IT for starting and growing your business

Ashley Leonard 300

By: Ashley Leonard

You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” So why put all your investment capital in one part of your business? IT resources can eat a large chunk of your startup or investors’ capital, taking funding away from more crucial aspects of a new business. While having the right IT solutions for your business is important, you may not need an extensive IT setup immediately. This is especially true now that the cloud is a safe, efficient and cost effective option.

You can make your business or investors’ capital go much further if you are slightly conservative. To start, purchase IT assets and utilize the cloud instead of buying physical or on premise resources. Avoid overinvesting in IT resources you may not need immediately and invest your capital in other ways. Those who are first starting a business can use these tips to effectively manage IT with realistic resources:

Count on the cloud: Why is everything moving to the cloud? Because it’s cost effective and efficient — two things every startup or small business is looking for. With the cloud, there is nothing to manage, no infrastructure cost and no large capital needed for hardware. Little maintenance is required and you don’t have to pay consultants to install and update applications. The cloud is more secure and flexible so you can move from one vendor to another as you grow.

Strengthen your core: Determine the core infrastructure functions your business needs. From there, decide how many workstations and how much storage space you need to run your business. You’ll find that almost all core functions a business needs, like Microsoft Office 365, can be found and managed from the cloud and configured to meet your requirements now and in the future.

Save with a suite: Today, more businesses large and small are choosing cloud-based programs over on-premise versions to handle not only IT functions, but financial business as well. For your accounting and sales tracking needs, consider using a suite of programs. Keep track of your accounting with programs like QuickBooks Online and NetSuite, which can be used online through the cloud. Record and report sales stats and mange CRM (customer relationship management) with solutions like Sales Force conveniently through the cloud.

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Microsoft Remains A Growth Story With A Strong Future

Written By: Michael Blair


  • Microsoft has shown strong share performance over the past few years.
  • The company has a visionary CEO with the right strategy for the longer term.
  • Its cloud and subscription software foundation are growing in scale and earnings power.
  • Microsoft is not giving up on devices.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has the right CEO and the right strategy, in my opinion. The company has been a mainstay of technology portfolios throughout the 3 years I have followed it, returning an average of 25.5% annually.

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Source: TipRanks

That has produced a good result for me, with gains on MSFT calls totaling over $400,000 (partial list of trades below from my accounting records).

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On SMB MSP & Cloud Channel Challenges

By Anurag Agrawal

On 7th January, Harry Brelsford, Founder, SMBNation had a Q&A webinar with Techaisle on the challenges of SMB-focused MSPs and cloud channel partners. Given below are his questions and Techaisle’s responses.

Harry: Referring to this blog SMB IT Channel has reached an inflection point can you better define “inflection point?” does that mean a tipping point before collapse or a pivot?

Anurag: It is a pivot not a collapse – “one stop solution shop” is dying as each of cloud, mobility, managed services and CI/virtualization gets too complex for generalists to manage. The IT channel is changing, permanently and in ways that are entirely different from what we have seen in the past. In the same way that “cloud” refers to a very wide range of very different IT models and deployments, “the channel” is becoming a generic phrase that describes a set of business approaches that is increasingly specialized and fragmented. The areas that I just mentioned – cloud, mobility, managed services, virtualization - today, there is substantial overlap across these categories – but it is our belief that over time, success in any one of these areas will require discrete focus and investment, reducing opportunity for equal success in/focus on other competencies.

Harry: I like how you provide historical context – the comment you made regarding a market defined by the adoption of a particular type of technology (e.g. small Business Server (SBS)) is a point well taken by this crowd. But I’m not sure I’m seeing a cult-like community emerge around any particular cloud product (e.g. Office 365). Would you agree?

Anurag: Talking from a channel POV, agreed. If there is a cult growing, it is around Hybrid IT; possible that Cloud Broker business model will get to this level as well. SMB organizations will accept the notion that their focus on cloud needs to evolve into a focus on hybrid IT, as firms realize that their platforms and management scope must encompass on and off-premise systems. Truth of the matter is that Office365 also disintermediates the channel. There is no stopping an organization from going directly to Microsoft and purchasing and installing Office 365 as opposed to using SBS from a channel partner in the past. It is a classic cloud vs. on-premise conundrum. The ecosystem should evolve but it will evolve around integration of data and applications.

Harry: Along those lines, I just had a conversation that I’m not seeing the same ecosystem building up around a cloud product or service. For example, we’d like to take credit that SBS really helped build Trend Micro and today it’s a $1b company. But I’m not seeing these add-ons in the same way with Office 365. The only thing I can point to are a few SharePoint snap-ins and a few tools (migrations, etc.). Do you agree or disagree?

Anurag: Mostly agree. There is a lot of potential around Salesforce, but a lot of cloud software suppliers sell direct, using online trials rather than channel members to educate customers about offerings. This does not mean that there will be no aggregation opportunity in the future, but the cloud broker model is still pretty immature, and the traditional channel has several barriers to surmount before they can adopt this kind of role with respect to cloud.

Harry: You put a lot of emphasis on mobility. While I think mobility is a game changer and you have kids walking around with cranked over necks on city streets, I guess I’ surprised. Please defend your lead-off statement about mobility, sir!

Anurag: Seen on the web recently – “Software is eating the world, and mobility is eating software; therefore, mobility is eating the world.” Everywhere, and especially outside the US, the mobile device is the key to information access and use. Today, the workspace is not defined by windows and walls and common area couches. For millions of SMB employees, the “workspace” is not a physical location – it is a virtual space defined by access from multiple screens which are used from multiple locations. Techaisle data shows that more than one-third of SMB employees today spend at least 20% of their work time away from a central office, and that 80% use mobile devices to access corporate information. If the “office” is defined by devices, so too is “workplace” defined by the ability to work from wherever those devices (and their users) are located. SMBs are investing in mobility because it contributes to both cost savings and increased market reach, with “improved productivity” and related answers connected to establishing “better ways of working” viewed as the greatest benefit of mobility within SMBs. Techaisle’s data shows that small and midsized businesses have different challenges in supporting the mobile workforce: while both cite TCO as their most significant challenge, small businesses struggle with the “on ramps” to mobility (such as finding appropriate suppliers and solutions), while midmarket firms report that they are more concerned with security/data protection and mobile management. Empowering the SMB mobile workforce becomes a huge opportunity for MSPs.

Harry: Let’s go throw the four points of overlap in your first blog installment. For the benefit of the listeners, could you expand on your four bullet points?

Anurag: In our research, Techaisle has divided the SMB channel into four technology-focused groups:
•Mobility, which includes the channel members who are looking to regain relevance in the client market by providing management solutions that address the sprawl of applications (and as a result, complexity and GRC exposure).
•Managed services, which hones in on firms that are successfully pursuing a services-led, recurring revenue-based business model.
Cloud, which represents – at least in our view – the mainstream opportunity of the future, and which will ultimately divide further into segments clustered around delivery models, customer sets and/or technology specialties.
•Virtualization and converged infrastructure, which represents the evolution of the traditional channel focused on sales of back-office technology.

Today, there is a great deal of overlap between the four groups, but we have hit an inflection point, and the (more or less) common starting point is launching multiple distinct paths. At present, though, this diffusion of channel interests and capabilities is the source of a great deal of complexity within the channel, and as a result, within the vendor and buyer ranks as well. All three of the core supply chain communities – buyers, vendors and the channel – need to understand what is required for success so that the channel can make the investments needed to support emerging requirements, vendors can commit to the investments and partners needed to drive success, and buyers can identify the suppliers able to deliver business benefit from advanced technology acquisition

Harry: Is managed services still a valid business model in a cloud service world?

Anurag: Good question! Yes. Think about “cloud service” as “hybrid IT that requires integration between on-prem and cloud-based resources,” and the opportunity for third party management is clear. Also, while developers love the AWS credit-card-and-go approach, business users – and SMBs especially – need more support. MSPs are hardly the only source of managed services: more than 60% of VARs, SPs and SIs sell managed services today, and there has been an increase in managed services activity in all of these channels and Channels generally are gaining comfort with managed services delivery. Same time, the variety and depth of managed services will make it difficult for non-specialists to keep pace with MSP specialists. And SMB Buyer preference for a single source of managed services will have an impact on managed services market and channel development. To put it in context, SMBs are more dependent on technology than ever before. Since 2010, IT staffing has dropped in microbusinesses, and increased in small and midmarket firms. Accordingly, managed services acts as a substitute for IT staff in firms with 1-19 employees, and as a means of augmenting IT management in larger SMBs. SMBs are struggling with IT complexity, and turning to managed services providers for support.

Harry: I want to drill down a layer on the end of your first blog’s conclusion: “Many vendors will struggle with simply understanding this fundamental change in the market, and more will fail to understand the focus and investment required to grow with partners through this transitional period.” I’ve seen three RMM companies reorganize in the past few months. The old GFI marketing team in the UK was let go. AVG had a significant layoff of the old LevelPlatform group and Kaseya just had a shake up letting developers go but hiring a lot of account reps. That’s my evidence. What is your viewpoint?

Anurag: This is not just an RMM problem, it is a channel enablement problem. In the cloud era, established partners need to change: management approach, management metrics, marketing approach, technical service skills, sales approach, and sales comp models. Or they can get displaced…Only yesterday I read somewhere that the HP Inc. channel chief Thomas Jensen had said that Channel partners must grow their business to be more solution-oriented, as a transactional based business may not be enough in five years' time. But at least in the article there was no mention of how this magical transition was going to happen and what is HP Inc. doing to make it happen.

Migration to advanced technologies such as cloud and analytics, which require sophisticated deployment capabilities and often new recurring-revenue-based sales models, has left the traditional channel behind. Vendors are “helping” partners to build the capabilities needed to participate in the growth segments of the IT industry, but their methods are unsurprisingly designed to align the channel with a particular product set. This has the net effect of converting resellers/integrators/consultants into sales agents – which erodes the channel’s basic position as a trusted advisor. There is not a lot of current appetite for vendor-neutral enablement, but there is a great deal of need for it.

Harry: This blog New Wave of SMB Channel conflict in building a cloud practice, I thought the whole idea with cloud was to be more agile. But you make a super tanker reference but call it an inapt comparison. Can you expand in our thinking?

Anurag: Yes, cloud provides agility for the end-customer but for channels it is like turning a super tanker. Building an effective cloud practice within a channel business is a complex undertaking. Using an old metaphor, it has been compared to “turning a supertanker.” This is an inapt comparison, and not just because the vast majority of channel businesses are far smaller than a large ocean vessel. The real problem with the comparison is that turning a supertanker refers to an exercise whose success rests on an anticipation of future change. Certainly, this is part of the problem for the channel – what is the best time to invest in ramping up cloud practice resources? – but the issue has a much greater scope. A successful cloud business practice requires new management metrics, new financial models, new sales processes (and generally, compensation models), new vendor relationships, new marketing activities, new consulting capabilities and new technical support capabilities. To use a nautical analogy, creating a cloud practice within an existing channel business is like building a second boat within your ship, sailing it off in a different direction, and maintaining alignment between the two courses in order to maximize synergies and benefits and reduce expensive discontinuities

Harry: You go on to allude that a cloud practice has to have a new approach and I agree. In my SMB Nation Fall 2015 keynote, I had a slide about firing your staff at your MSP practice. Basically I was saying $100K MCSE on the server-side are irrelevant and expensive on the cloud side. Let’s talk about that. Do we need to fire everyone and use virtual monkeys to do the work?


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The Evolution of The Way We Work

Story by Mitel -

Changes in the interplay between technology, location, culture and business are transforming where, when and how we work.

Workers are taking control of their work / life balance with traditional ‘nine to five’ commuting patterns changing. Employees are also seeking more control over the communications devices and applications they use.Big Mitel

There is also an interesting sub-trend involving the development of portfolio based careers.

These trends are confirmed by evidence from SMB Group about the changing use of business communication technologies with 92% of SMBs using at least one cloud solution, 60% saying that mobile solutions are critical and 86% using mobile applications.

Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Group said “As a company we are moving towards keeping and managing everything in the cloud…Whatever we need, whenever we need it, accessible from whichever device is most suitable and available at the time.”

Small and medium sized business today face the challenge of providing workers with flexibility while at the same time maximizing their productivity, controlling costs and ensuring that teams retain good interaction.

Stephen Tanner, Founder of OfficePOD Ltd commented “An organization cannot promote the idea of flexible working and merely cover the provision of a desk and a chair in a spare room. Employers have a duty to provide staff with the tools they need to work effectively and productively; this should include a suitable working environment, wherever that happens to be.”

To explore these issues further the team at global business communications vendor Mitel asked business users, leaders in innovation, architects, psychologists and human resource experts for their perspectives in four key areas:

• How technology trends are setting the agenda
• Next generation workplaces
• The impact of a global market
• Cultural changes and the impact on work.

To discover more insights download the full guide at

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State of the Channel 2015: Cloud Turns from ‘Threat’ to ‘Opportunity’

5th Annual State of the Channel Research Banner Ad 220x150

By: Carolyn April, Senior Director of Industry Analysis at CompTIA  -

The tech industry, like most others, has its fair share of pundits. Some predict gloom and doom if the stock market has a single down day or jump on every vendor or provider setback as if it were a long-standing trend. Then there are the channel optimists, who emphasize the positive points around industry news and put a rosier spin on any negative concerns. A commonly accepted business practice is to listen to both camps for their views and reasoning before developing your own conclusions, especially when your investments and reputation depend on the decisions you make with that information.

Overall, most IT professionals remain optimistic about the future of our industry, even in the face of tremendous change and new business challenges. In fact, six out of ten channel firms have a positive outlook on what the future holds for the channel in general, according to CompTIA’s 5th Annual State of the Channel research project. Five years ago, many VARs, solution providers and other industry professionals were concerned about their long-term business prospects with cloud computing gaining traction. The turnaround in the channel’s outlook is quite significant.    

Cloud computing is now cited as the chief reason to be optimistic about the channel’s future since, among other things, it opens doors to new opportunities. Whether or not there is reason to be this hopeful remains to be seen. But, according to our most recent study, channel companies are seeing the cloud as less of a threat. They are discovering that cloud isn’t a single business model; it gives them the chance to plug in at various points. They can sell SaaS, integrate cloud with on-premises solutions, broker and aggregate cloud options, develop applications and offer complementary managed services and other support options.

On the flip side, the cloud also has its skeptics. A subset of our study respondents remain pessimistic and about future of the channel and cite cloud a one reason. This is especially true of those channel firms that sell primarily to very small end customers. Why? Among these small-sized clients, cloud solutions offer a no-brainer alternative to on-premises hardware and software solutions (where many VARs still prosper). Likewise, one third of channel firms indicated that a wider availability of purchasing options and customer self-sufficiency were sources of concern for the channel’s future. This may be behind many of the smallest channel companies rethinking their customer value proposition. For example, 26% of firms with less than 10 employees currently list pure consulting services as their main source of revenue. If their end customers decide to convert to an all cloud model, these small VARs have to create support service offerings to help guide their clients’ decisions. Those opportunities seem to make the most sense. 

While cloud has the promise to simplify things for some customers, others continue to struggle with the growing complexity of IT. That’s great news for channel companies. The third platform technologies (mobility, cloud, big data, and social media) perplex many small businesses today, so IT firms that can help design, implement and support these solutions are truly relevant.

Companies with those capabilities should be optimistic. Of course, there are other reasons why the study respondents had a positive outlook on the channel’s future, including:

• Wider variety and use of technology by all types of customers and end users

• Increasingly complex solution and service options

• Larger demand for vertical industry expertise

These are market realities that provide channel companies with a reason to be optimistic and a number of roles to fill. The opportunities are theirs for the taking if they take the appropriate steps. With solid recruitment efforts and effective training programs, it will make it easier for channel firms to focus their efforts on emerging and more sophisticated technologies.

VARs and MSPs should also be making continual improvements in the business practices. A makeover of sales and marketing strategies can help bring in new customers from different verticals. Back office automation can help reduce billing and cash flow issues, and other tools can improve customer service and support operations. Channel firms that embrace an “as-a-service” way of life typically have a more optimistic outlook.

There’s plenty to be positive about in the IT industry right now. Based on all the information we compiled during the latest State of the Channel survey, a majority of firms are definitely more optimistic than they were five years ago. The real question right now seems to be “will that positive outlook continue?” Time will tell.  

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Microsoft announces Azure innovation at AzureCon

The intelligent cloud is powering innovation industry-wide and key to advancement of Microsoft Azure. 

Microsoft Corp. announced earlier this week Azure will be available in more places worldwide with new features designed to offer users simplicity and flexibility. microsoft logo 100029828 gallery

“We live in a connected world, and the intelligent cloud is powering it all,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud + Enterprise Division. “As data and devices continue to proliferate, there is vast opportunity for businesses to tap into their data to make their applications more intelligent. Through our offerings across applications, data and IoT, and cloud infrastructure, we are enabling companies to innovate more easily and rapidly, using the tools and platforms they know and love.”

Exciting product news include the availability of the Azure IoT Suite and the expansion of Azure Data Lake. Microsoft Azure services are now available in India, with O365 and Dynamics CRM soon to follow in the coming months. 

More product information and service announcements from AzureCon are available here.

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IBM grows portfolio of cloud business solutions

IBM announced today plans to expand its business solutions capabilities with new industry platforms designed to simplify and accelerate transitions to the cloud. IBM logo1

These industry platforms combine multiple cloud business solutions, and the portfolio includes platforms built for personalized learning, insights and customer experiences. 

“Our portfolio of cloud business solutions is a recognition of the mandate for speed and time to value, along with the requirement of clients to personalize business solutions to their own processes and culture and deploy them via the cloud," said Sanjay Rishi, IBM Global Business Services, Managing Partner, Cloud Consulting Services. “Our new IBM Cloud Business Innovation Center will help us co-create with our clients, addressing their unique needs with tailored solutions, delivered on the cloud for fast results.”

IBM’s portfolio is built to address specific verticals and business functions. More information about available solutions can be found here.

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Unitrends marks five years on Inc. 5000

Spending a fifth year on Inc. Magazine’s annual ranking of the nation's fastest-growing privately-owned companies is certainly something to celebrate.

Unitrends announced today its position at No. 1184 on the exclusive list, with a special nod to its recognition on the Inc. Magazine Honor Roll, which includes organizations recognized on the Inc. 5000 list five or more times.  unitrends logo

"Our ranking on this year's Inc. 5000 list and inclusion in the Inc. 5000 Honoree Club is recognition of an unwavering focus on creating the highest quality data protection solutions that enable companies to recover more than just data," said Kevin Weiss, president and CEO of Unitrends. "Equally as important, it demonstrates that the path to financial success is dependent on constant innovation, world-class, award-winning customer support, and a vision of where this marketplace is headed and how we as a company will lead that change.”

This year has been key in Unitrends’ expansion, with worldwide growth of Unitrends Cloud and the Unitrends Enterprise Backup software. 


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Voxox caters to channel partners, offers promotion

Cloud-based rich-communication service Voxox announced earlier this week at the Cloud Partners Conference & Expo it revamped its hosted PBX and SIP trunking solutions under the Voxox Office Brand.  voxox

In this transition, Voxox will double the standard partner commission to 40-50 percent for the first year of hosted PBX and SIP Trunking deals for 12 months or longer. 

"The channel is our primary sales force so we are always thinking of ways to cater to partner needs," said Bryan Hertz, CEO of Voxox. "We saw an opportunity to enhance our hosted PBX and SIP trunking solutions tailoring the latest offering to our channel partners' requests, and we feel that the new Voxox Office suite offers an even better partner and customer experience. We are excited to roll out this offering."

Voxox Office combines both Voxox solutions and third-party products, as Voxox strives to offer the most complete features and solutions. 

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Accenture announces agreement to acquire Cloud Sherpas

Cloud services provider Accenture announced Tuesday it entered into an agreement to acquire Cloud Sherpas, a cloud advisory and technology services provider specializing in “pure play” technologies including Salesforce and NetSuite. 

“We’ve reached a tipping point in cloud as our clients rapidly adopt cloud solutions,” Accenture CTO Paul Daugherty said. “Accenture’s Cloud First agenda is a game-changer that offers transformational cloud services to help clients move their businesses to the cloud and achieve significant business results more quickly. I look forward to welcoming the talented professionals of Cloud Sherpas to Accenture.”

Combined, the two companies will continue to strengthen a strategic partnership with Salesforce, with thousands of certified professionals combined. 

More information about the acquisition and how it will affect customers and employees is available here.

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StorageCraft offers recovery without a ransom in new pricing structure

Paying for the protection of DRaaS seems futile when the service provider holds data and systems at a ransom after a disaster.

StorageCraft announced yesterday at VMworld a new pricing model for the StorageCraft Cloud Services disaster recovery solution designed to make StorageCraft products more accessible and eliminate the threat of hidden fees. storagecraft

“Data is the life-blood of a business. A business owner with data in a cloud should not be forced to pay a ransom to gain access to his or her data after a disaster. The new, simple pricing model makes StorageCraft Cloud Services as affordable as generic clouds, while offering recovery options that other clouds do not offer,” said Mike Kunz, StorageCraft’s Vice President of Worldwide Sales. “To put it simply, StorageCraft Cloud Services’ pricing allows users to focus on the recovery -- not on what is affordable to recover or how to pay for a recovery. Other vendors charge high fees at the time of recovery, such as essential CPU, RAM, and bandwidth resources. StorageCraft Cloud Services supports your business’ recovery point objectives and recovery time objectives, including full virtualization.”

Features of StorageCraft Cloud Services include instant virtualization and networking of cloud-based backups, personal control of cloud backups and a self-service Cloud Services portal.

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VMware extends unified hybrid cloud platform

The second day of VMworld 2015 brought three key VMware announcements: new solution EVO SDDC, updates to its unified hybrid cloud platform and previews of vSphere Integrated Containers and Photon Platform. vmware

VMware, Inc. announced today new features for its unified hybrid cloud platform, designed to enable customers to create a consistent environment across public and private cloud.

"Digital business transformation is creating new opportunities and new risks across every industry," said Raghu Raghuram, executive vice president and general manager, Software-Defined Data Center Division, VMware. "Applications are the fuel of this digital business transformation. With our One Cloud, Any Application, Any Device™ strategy and our unified hybrid cloud platform, VMware is empowering the next wave of industry leaders to deliver applications with the stability, security and reliability of an enterprise, while allowing organizations to innovate with the agility of a startup."

Within its unified hybrid cloud platform, VMware expanded and added services in VMware vCloud Air and released several new products for the software-defined data center.

Several of the new features and products associated with its unified hybrid cloud platform offering are available now, and the rest will be available later this year. Full pricing and availability can be found here.             

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Cisco-sponsored study reveals second wave of cloud adoption

It’s not over quite yet. Cloud is expected to continue to drive revenue for technology pros in a second wave of cloud adoption, according to findings from a Cisco-sponsored global study. 

Cisco released earlier this week “Don’t Get Left Behind: The Business Benefits of Achieving Greater Cloud Adoption,”an InfoBrief developed by IDC and based on primary market research with executives in 3,400 companies in 17 countries.

“As we talk with customers interested in moving to the second wave of cloud, they are far more focused on private and hybrid cloud—primarily because they realize that private and hybrid offer the security, performance, price, control and data protection organizations are looking for during their expanded efforts,” said Nick Earle, senior vice president, global cloud and managed services sales, Cisco. “This observation, which drove our strategy to build a portfolio of private and hybrid infrastructure and as-a-service solutions, is reflected in the new IDC study, which shows that 44 percent of organizations are either currently using or have plans to implement private cloud and 64 percent of cloud adopters are considering hybrid cloud.”

“Don’t Get Left Behind” includes information on cloud adoption by industry, economic and business outcomes of cloud, and cloud adoption in the countries included in the study.

Read and download the full InfoBrief here.

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Microsoft announces first look, features for SharePoint

Sharing is caring, right? After all, we’ve welcomed many business solutions in the past few years allowing us to collaborate with colleagues, clients and customers through services like Microsoft SharePoint.

Microsoft announced yesterday availability of SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview and a new cloud hybrid search preview for SharePoint Server 2013 and 2016.sharepoint

“One of the more difficult challenges, beyond deploying software, is managing the IT infrastructure to support it,” wrote Bill Baer, SharePoint senior technical product manager. “In many cases, IT investments directly impact the bottom line. SharePoint Server 2016 has been designed to reduce the emphasis on IT and streamline administrative tasks, so IT professionals can concentrate on core competencies and mitigate costs. Tasks that may have taken hours to complete in the past have become simple and efficient processes that allow IT to focus less on day-to-day management and more on innovation.”

Perhaps one of the most exciting developments in the Microsoft announcement is a cloud hybrid search preview, which will allow Office 365 and SharePoint users to retrieve information from on-premises and O365 content with a combined search index in Office 365.

The full announcement and links to download the cloud hybrid search and SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview are available here.

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Harry’s Pick: Addressing the Five (5) Pivot Challenges in a Cloud Practice Transformation Strategy (including Office 365)

idc studyGood morning – Harry here with out-of-band special edition article concerning an amazing IDC study I have just reviewed. As part of my daily activities as your Office 365 ombudsman and independent community advocate, I take my responsibilities very seriously. So when I read Marilyn Carr’s “Building a Cloud Practice: Challenges and Rewards” article, I hit the POST button to get it to you as soon as possible. This is a MUST READ! I’d offer it defines a generation of SMB IT Pros much like the classic book “In Search of Excellence” defined a generation of MBAs (present company included).

Essentially, Carr hits the topic head-on and doesn’t sugar coat the challenges of going from a server-side on-premises world too often defined by break-fix to an Office 365 or cloud consulting practice. Here conversation on the danger of the revenue trough is classic. As I’ve said before and we’ve validated with our Office 365 Nation workshop tour this spring, the business model surrounding Office 365 consulting is very different from my beloved Windows Small Business Server (LOL – RIP).  

You can download the white paper here:

To give you a quick view into Carr’s landmark work, some of the change agent topics include:

  • The Shift to Recurring Revenue
  • The Changes in Sales Model
  • The Changes in Delivery Model

My bottom line. My job is to peruse the body of knowledge concerning Office 365 as an analyst and share with you the most relevant and interesting information and conversations. In a sense, I’m an analytical filter. This study has my endorsement for you to read. Agree with me or not – lemme know what you think: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You can download the white paper here:

 ANAYST DISCLAIMER: This white paper study by Marilyn Carr was prepared by IDC and funded by Ingram Micro and Microsoft. I do not own any stock in IDC, Ingram Micro or Microsoft.

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Axcient Announces New Cloud Offering

DRaaS provider Axcient announced today availability of Direct to Cloud, an offering designed to enable organizations to replicate physical and virtual servers to the cloud without local appliances.

The solution allows customers to create and store full system snapshots in the cloud and launch virtual replicas in Axcient Business Recovery Cloud.

“Direct to Cloud fills a major gap in the market. No other vendor offers the same end-to-end protection for laptops, desktops and servers across physical and virtual environments,” Axcient CEO Justin Moore, said. “Our customers and partners have been asking us to bring our leading Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service solution to endpoints so that they can do away with legacy online backup products and we decided to take it a step further and make an appliance-less version of our platform for servers. Businesses of all sizes can now have enterprise level replication and resiliency for all of their systems at a tenth of the cost of building a replicated datacenter.”

Direct to Cloud, an integrated cloud solution, empowers organizations to consolidate endpoint and server disaster protection with features including unlimited storage, point-in-time recovery and configurable replication interval and retention.

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IBM Aims to Accelerate Hybrid Cloud Computing

IBM logo1IBM announced yesterday additional servers and storage software and solutions designed for cloud computing in hybrid cloud environments.

Increased adoption of the hybrid cloud by businesses brings new waves of data that complicate moving around computing workloads, requiring new software and solutions to help clients navigate between on-premises data centers and public and private clouds.

"IBM hybrid cloud solutions are built for the enterprise and clients are using them to help enable new business models to drive growth," said Don Boulia, Vice President of Cloud Services, IBM Systems. "Hybrid cloud computing requires new levels of openness, dynamic data management, integration, automation and scalable performance in server, storage and software technologies. IBM brings all of these technologies together from on-premises data centers and inside public and private clouds to more efficiently manage traditional computing with new mobile, big data and social computing workloads."

IBM’s new products and innovations include the IBM Power System E850, IBM Power System E880, IBM PurePower System, IBM Spectrum Control Storage Insights, IBM XIV GEN 3, Big Storage Technology and Rocket’s mainframe data access service on Bluemix.

In June, IBM’s self-service portal for clients to scale their infrastructure and software license footprint for hybrid deployments in minutes using PureApplication Service will be available.

More information about new IBM software and solutions is available here.

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How BlackBerry is being reinvented as the secure business software provider it’s been

By Patrick Houston, long-time industry leader and founder of Media Architects

Who’d have thunk it? Not me. Or not until Harry and I had a recent conversation with Blackberry’s David Moellenkamp.BBRY2674 Cloud Blog Banner

Remember the days when every blockbuster business or government movie character clicked away on a BlackBerry keyboard? Gone. And for a time everything at the Waterloo, Canada, company seemed to go from bad to worse. Its every attempt to reverse its slide — never mind regaining its stature — seemed tone deaf to its customer base, never more symptomatic than its ill-begotten launch of the Playbook tablet.

Even BlackBerry itself admitted to very crux of its challenge in what actually became a prize-winning PR campaign built around the slogan a “From Relic to Relevant.” Relic is right. Like so many others, I figured the company was headed the way of those ghosts of business history like Digital Equipment, Palm and Kodak.

But then we talked to Moellenkamp. Ever since John Chen came aboard as CEO last year, BlackBerry has been showing glimmering signs of a comeback. Here’s mainly why: It’s actively and publicly dispelling any lingering delusions it has of being a leading smartphone maker. Self-awareness is, after all, the first step. Instead, it’s embracing its consummate natural strength as a provider of secure communications services (Stick to your knitting!).

By way of introduction, Moellenkamp is BlackBerry’s executive director of Enterprise Solutions Development, one of its four key operating units. A Devices group is still one, but it’s outweighed by three others, all revolving around enterprise software services. Across the board, the company’s moves are being dictated, Moellenkamp said, by BlackBerry’s newfound focus on its core strengths of security, productivity, communication, and collaboration for business.

But those are just words. The real issue: Can Blackberry execute on them? But Moellenkamp offers us a few dots. And if its audience can connect with them, well, it just might be on the verge of becoming a player yet again:

Consider just three:

  • BlackBerry is moving to the cloud. The company has a gem in its mobile-device-management platform, BES12. I have no idea what its name has to do with product. I do have an idea — a good one — that BES12 is a gem. Businesses, especially in highly-regulated sectors like healthcare, remain consummately concerned about data security, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand what vulnerabilities mobile devices present. Moving it to the cloud promises to make the EMM-platform promises that much better. It’ll make it accessible and affordable faster to more companies, especially small-to-medium-sized ones. And to make it more accessible to a wider swath of businesses, it’s going to have to be easier to use. BlackBerry says it is, but we’ll have to see because, after all, like beauty, ease-of-use in is the eye of the beholder.
  • BlackBerry is playing in the Internet of Things. Get this: Secure BlackBerry software powers embedded computer chips in cars, factories, and medical devices. Who knew? The company has data centers around the world transacting 35 petabytes of mobile data a month. It handles peer-to-peer connections with 700 mobile and partner networks. As more things connect to more other things, security will become an exponential concern. Yep, you’ve got it. BlackBerry has a big ace of spades in its hand.
  • BlackBerry is acquiring more advanced security technologies. In April, it bought an Israeli company called WatchDox. Even though endpoint security has become all the rage, WatchDox adds a smart, new precaution to the mix: It embeds security into the document itself, allowing it to “travel” with the file no matter where it goes. You can protect, share, and work with it on any device. You can see where it is at any moment. You can control who can edit, copy, print, and forward. Most of all, you can revoke access or delete a file remotely. And by the way, as a company name, WatchDox, I get. Dox, doc, dog, nice.

BlackBerry just reported its second consecutive profitable quarter, and its customer loyalty scores have spiked. It was named the biggest gainer in an annual ranking of 220 big brands, released in March.

It’s too early to declare a comeback. According to reports as recently as May 5, CEO Chen was opining the challenge of convincing his own employees that BlackBerry isn’t a smartphone company anymore. (Hey, disbelievers, have you been hibernating? Apple, Samsung, Google, and Microsoft have won that battle. But take warm comfort. You’re in good company. Nokia, Ericsson, HTC, and Sony are also-rans too.)

Nevertheless, the glimmers are bright enough to suggest that BlackBerry shouldn’t be written off as a has-been — and should be considered as channel partner that can add a suite of secure business software services to your portfolio.

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Digium Discusses Benefits of a Phone System in the Cloud

Digium Discusses Benefits of a Phone System in the Cloud

Digium released last week an infographic detailing the benefits of cloud-based phone systems, a solution especially suited for SMBs.

and remote businesses looking to reduce costs, minimize IT resources and keep employees connected regardless of location. cloudinfographic

“The beauty of Cloud applications and VoIP phones systems are that they are located in secure data centers, and vendors take responsibility for owning, configuring, and managing them,” Cora Cloud, Digium content marketing specialist, said.

Full-featured Unified Communication solution Switchvox Cloud, designed for SMBs, includes UC features in a cloud format, which Digium suggested is the superior option for SMB phone systems.

According to the infographic, 82 percent of companies reduced costs by moving to the cloud, and cloud-based phone systems also saved energy and server space.

The full infographic is available  to the right.

P.S. Be sure to attend our online Office 365 connected conference, June 2-3. No travel, no hotel, no traffic! Sign-up here:

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Adobe and Microsoft Partner to Improve Marketing, Sales and Customer Service

Adobe and Microsoft announced at Adobe Summit a strategic partnership focused on redefining management of marketing, sales and services to better engage with customers across all touch points. adobe

Through this partnership, Adobe’s Marketing Cloud Solutions will be integrated with Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM, creating a CRM-marketing solution that helps brands to take all customer engagements into account.

“Helping our customers reinvent productivity and business processes is one of our top priorities. Partnering with Adobe enables us to deliver a comprehensive set of customer engagement processes to enterprise customers to help them be more productive and better engage with their customers,” said Kirill Tatarinov, executive vice president, Microsoft Business Solutions. “The integration of our industry-leading Dynamics CRM solution with Adobe Marketing Cloud will enable business professionals to maximize their investment in technology and deliver breakthroughs in marketing, sales and customer care.”  

Adobe and Microsoft are also working on a connector to enable data and insights from Adobe Analytics to appear in Microsoft’s Power BI.

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Cloud4Wi Mobile Management Provides On-the-go Access

Cloud4Wi, a cloud-based Wi-Fi engagement platform, announcedCloud4Wi today the launch of Cloud4Wi Mobile Management, which provides remote access to its platform to control Wi-Fi marketing campaigns remotely.

“Consumers today expect a great mobile experience. Around half of customers will search for deals and coupons online before making an in-store purchase, about the same amount that will use a Wi-Fi enabled mobile device to do so,” CEO Andrea Calcagno said.. “Brands not leveraging Guest Wi-Fi are missing out when it comes to creating an enhanced experience for shoppers. Cloud4Wi Mobile Management means retailers are always up-to-date on the latest in-store trends even when on the go. This allows them to make changes to their Guest Wi-Fi strategies, create a more customized marketing experience for shoppers and increase loyalty to positively impact their bottom line.”

Cloud4Wi Mobile Management is designed to provide retailers with information on customer Wi-Fi usage and demographics to capitalize on connected customers.


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Parallels Releases SmartStart for Microsoft Office 365

Parallels logoParallels this week announced that it is the first company to support the new Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider Program, which was recently announced at WPC. In the wake of this new program, Parallels has developed SmartStart for Office 365, a program that helps Microsoft-approved resellers quickly get traction.

So what is it? Parallels SmartStart for Office 365 is a fixed-rate, low-cost implementation of the company’s Parallels Automation service with the addition of user training and certification, as well as the ability for partners to create a custom “storefront” or add any of the 500 current services available on the Parallels Automation platform. Any size of partner, from enterprise to SMB, is able to quickly deploy the full range of Microsoft cloud solutions. To date, Parallels partners have completed over 1.5 million Office 365 and Microsoft Exchange business class seats, with that number expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.

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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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Cloud innovation drives growth and geographic expansion for Object Consulting


Awards in the IT space can be plentiful, especially if you spend any time on the conference circuit: Best Solution, Best Software, Best in Show, etc. All of these awards offer a measure of value, but for some that measure is slightly more significant than others.

When Object Consulting recently won the 2014 Microsoft Cloud Partner of the Year, Small and Medium Business (SMB) Award Kevin Francis knew it was the kind of award that would bring in major revenue for the Sydney, Australia-based solution provider.

Last year the Microsoft Gold partner won Microsoft’s Cloud Partner of the Year award for the enterprise segment and found it really put the organization on the map, says Francis, Object Consulting’s National Microsoft Practice Manager. “We grew our Microsoft business more than 50 percent last year and that’s really a testament to what winning this kind of award does. It gives us instant credibility. And it’s the kind of credibility that brings customers to us. They are calling us and that’s gold. We’re looking at another year of massive growth.”

The most recent award is recognition for a project Object Consulting completed for a two-man startup called Xpreshon which delivers free and subscription-based action sports content to users on Microsoft Xbox, Windows 8 and Windows phones. The media streaming and customer management components of the solution run on Microsoft’s public cloud Windows Azure, which makes it possible for a two-man shop like Xpreshon to manage and scale its business without compromising the time they need to spend on delivering core value.

Xpreshon’s original vision was to develop an offering specifically aimed at gamers however using the Azure platform made it possible to extend feature-rich applications to multiple platforms. “Running our applications on Windows 8 devices using Windows Azure means that our users have access to Xpreshon content wherever they are,” says Jason Webb, director and co-founder of Xpreshon.

The code sets for all three applications overlapped enough to provide an efficiency of scale that made it possible for all three to be released within one year. “We thought it would be great if we could be on multiple Microsoft platforms as a single presence,” says Webb. “The strength of our brand is enhanced by having simultaneous offerings on all three devices.”

This is exactly the kind of project that Object Consulting has specialized in, carving out a narrow niche that mixes specialty media with a variety of delivery platforms. The award they won last year was for a similar project – the creation of SuperFooty Live HQ for News Limited which delivered rich media content including video, images and data visualization to Aussie Rules Football fans on their smartphones, tablets, desktops and TVs.

According to Francis Cloud and Devices are the new frontiers in media delivery. “That combo of cloud at the back end and devices at the front end, that’s our space and it’s a fast growing space.”

Object Consulting was a very early adopter of the cloud and also quickly saw the potential of mobile and the convergence of the two. Today the company is one of the only premier Xbox developers in the APAC region and has also invested heavily building out its mobility capabilities with Windows phone, iOS and Android development.

“It’s been expensive for us to set up. It was a big risk, but it has paid off. Winning awards like this is what happens if your solution is really innovative, if it pushes the envelope then you can win against the big players.”

Next up, says Francis, is geographic expansion. Object Consulting already had plans in place to drive geographic expansion, but winning the Microsoft award will help accelerate that plan.

“We’ve started a move into Southwest Asia and we are actively looking for work globally. We have a unique set of capabilities – less than five partners globally have the kind of focus we have – we’ve found a way to play in a way that few others are doing and Azure helps us go to market globally with our capabilities.”

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Australian CSP Receives Microsoft Cloud Partner of the Year Award

Object Consulting LogoObject Consulting, a Sydney, Australia-based IT Consultant, announced yesterday that is has received the Microsoft Cloud Partner of the Year Award in the Small and Medium Business Space. This organization, which was founded in 1989, provides high-level Cloud services, including those based on Open Source, .NET, Enterprise Java and Salesforce technologies, to customers across Australia.

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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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Intronis Announces Spring Release ’14

IntronisToday, Intronis, Inc. announced that it has launched the Spring Release ‘14 for its data protection platform. Notable updates include support for new platforms, such as VMware vSphere 5.5 and Exchange 2013, Hyper-V backup capabilities and physical imaging support.

“The Spring ’14 Release is a transformative announcement for Intronis and positions our partners to deliver higher-value services and enterprise-grade support,” says Chuck DeLouis, Intronis vice president of product management. “It’s extremely rewarding to see the enthusiasm our partners have for Intronis’ new Spring Release ’14 and the solutions coming shortly on our strategic roadmap.”

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D&H Distributing Expands Cloud Product Portfolio

dandhjpgEarlier today, D&H Distributing announced an expansion of its cloud-enabled product portfolio. To be specific, this expansion came in three areas: Cloud Security, Cloud Software and Infrastructure, and Cloud Storage. This announcement is designed to allow D&H resellers to better leverage the increasingly popular cloud-based protocol in their sales departments.

D&H representatives explained that the company’s cloud-based SMB products have grown steadily through the years with the emergence of the “Security-as-a-Service” model. Here are a few examples of the cloud product portfolio:

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Interview with Kaseya’s CMO Loren Jarrett and a Strong Company Push in 2014

Loren Jarrett Headshot-1Good afternoon, SMB Nation Community! I was recently able to meet with Kaseya’s Chief Marketing Officer, Loren Jarrett (pictured). Loren took the time to discuss Kaseya’s strong 2013 growth, as well as plans for 2014 with me.

Loren started our call by introducing me to the “new Kaseya.” As many of you are aware, this company announced the appointment of Yogesh Gupta as CEO in June, 2013. With this appointment came an updating of the executive team; Loren herself was recently appointed as the company’s CMO. Additional appointments included: Prakash Khot as CTO (recently of Salesforce), Mark Combs as COO and Brian Murphy as CSO. All of these team members bring years of experience in the IT industry.

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Parallels Summit Day Two: Changing Reseller Roles, Cloud Battleground

Birger KeynoteGood day again, and welcome to today’s coverage of the goings-on at the Parallels Summit 2014! I was up bright and early again to attend today’s keynotes, which spoke directly to the Service Provider (IT Pro) role in the changing cloud industry.

I have already discussed the growing presence of the Cloud, not only on the tech side, but also for Main Street SMBs, like florists, plumbers, manufacturers, etc., so let’s dig into the good stuff! I attended three keynote presentations this morning, the first of which was another check-in from Parallels CEO, Birger Steen (pictured), with new software version announcements, as well as the announcement of the company’s top partners (I’ll cover this news in a separate article).

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Day One at the Parallels Summit 2014: SMB Cloud Insights, Reseller Role in Cloud Environment

Parallels Summit LogoGood day, SMB Nation Community. I am writing to you live from the Parallels Summit 2014 in New Orleans, LA this week, and I am pleased to share the Day One news with you all. I will begin by covering the Parallels SMB Cloud Insights Report findings for 2014, then I’ll move on to highlights from the two panels I was able to attend today, one of which was on SMB Cloud Computing trends, and the other was the Future of Cloud.

The big story out of the Parallels Summit today is of course the release of the company’s SMB Cloud Insights report findings for 2014. This study, which has just completed its fourth year, is the result of over 12,000 SMB interviews across 14 countries. This year’s report showed a significant increase in the cloud opportunity for SMBs. The SMB market is expected to continue this growth, with a predicted 26% CAGR increase up to $125 billion by 2016.

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ShoreTel Expands Partner Program Options

ShoreTel LogoLast week, ShoreTel announced the expansion of its Champion Partner Program to include three tiers for cloud communications. This program, the first of its kind in the industry, according to ShoreTel, enables existing and future partners to develop a best-practice motion for cloud sales.

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StorageCraft Cloud Services Solution Exceeds Company Expectations for Storage Growth

storagecraft smallStorageCraft Technology Corporation recently announced that the addition of the StorageCraft Cloud Services solution has exceeded company expectations. The company designed this solution in December 2012 to be a stable and reliable platform for MSPs and VARs, and it is available to IT Pros in the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In fact, the company explained that the Cloud Services solution has seen a 200% growth in data stored and a 99.99% uptime in cloud operations in its run to date.

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IBM Introduces X6 Servers Optimized for Analytics and Cloud

11854630243 057e369a4c qThis morning, IBM announced the debut of its sixth-generation enterprise X-Architecture for System x and PureSystems servers, designed to support analytics and cloud. I was able to discuss this news with Alex Yost, VP & Business Line Executive for IBM PureFlex, System x and BladeCenter, who filled me in on the updated system.

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GigaSpaces Enters Into Partnership with Nebula

gigaspacesGigaSpaces Technologies recently announced a technology partnership with private cloud company, Nebula. Under the new partnership, GigaSpaces’ Cloudify open-source application management platform would integrate into Nebula’s private cloud system, allowing users to deploy their OpenStack-based private cloud within 24 hours.

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Compliance in the Cloud: What you Need to Know about the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act

Danielle Sheer newBy Danielle Sheer, VP and General Counsel, Carbonite; and Alan Guichard, Northeastern University School of Law

In this month’s edition of “Compliance in the Cloud” we take a look at the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act and the downstream compliance requirements on cloud service providers. The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA), also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, focused on reforming the financial services industry, in part by removing regulations that prevented the merger of banks, stock brokerage companies and insurance companies.  As a result of permitting these types of mergers, however, financial institutions have access to an incredible amount of personal information.

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Kaseya Continues Acquisition Boom with Purchase of Office 365 Solution

Kaseya logoContinuing its trend of acquisitions (on both fronts) Kaseya said that it has acquired 365 Command, a solution enabling IT organizations and MSPs to easily manage and administer the Microsoft Office 365 cloud application suite.

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Hybrid Cloud for NetApp via Artisan Infrastructure Available via Arrow Electronics

11742707-artisan-logoArtisan Infrastructure has formed a strategic partnership with Arrow Electronics to deliver cloud-based data protection infrastructure to support NetApp customers. Available as an offering for the channel through Arrow’s ArrowSphere marketplace, the new service includes NetApp data protection infrastructure and a full suite of service enablement to speed time-to-market, simplify billing and contracts and reduce management overhead.

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StorageCraft, ABS Team Up on Enterprise-Class BDR Solution for MSPs

We heard frStoragecraft logoom StorageCraft today that they have partnered with Advanced Backup Solutions to integrate StorageCraft ShadowProtect software into its line of Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) Appliances and offsite DR infrastructure.

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Urgent: Download Our XP Migration Guide Now!

Q3 CoverSeriously – this is our PhD thesis on the Windows XP migration matter. It looks at the situation from the obvious market measurement and deadline perspectives to the cost of keeping an aging PC to look forward alternatives such as, eeek, cloud solutions.

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Avaya: We are Not Just Focused on Large Companies...SMBs Take Note

avaya logoAvaya said that its newest focus is to set a standard for collaboration and communications that are simple and effective and engaging. The company unveiled a set of new software and cloud-based services designed to transform the way enterprises and organizations work.  The company says that its simple, intuitive solutions will be designed for partners to help employees to work more effectively, engage more easily, and make decisions faster so organizations can experience the advantages of a new age of collaboration.

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Lenovo Unveils ThinkServers Designed for Virtualization, Cloud Deployments

RD640 16disk 02Lenovo announced this week at the EDUCAUSE annual conference, two new rack servers, the ThinkServer RD540 and ThinkServer RD640. Armed with the latest Intel Xeon E5 processors, these highly efficient and flexible servers are designed for easy integration into existing IT infrastructures that handle demanding virtualization, cloud and compute-intensive workloads.

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Calling All MSPs: How to Accelerate Cloud Adoption, Remotely Manage Key IT Workloads to Expand your Biz

Darrin Swan 2By Darrin Swan, Director, Global Sales and Business Development, Dell Service Provider Program        

Trying to survive on product margins has been a losing proposition for years, but an equally poor business choice is to offer just a portion of the key IT services that customers require. Comprehensive services are the lifeblood of your business, and MSPs have a prime opportunity to differentiate themselves and expand business by taking a holistic approach. The secret to service success is the same as the channel's long-proven value proposition: becoming your customers' trusted IT partner and focusing on their overarching business priorities, not only their technology needs. That's an ongoing challenge for MSPs, especially when it comes to small and medium businesses.

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VMware Acquires DaaS Provider Desktone

VMware logo blk RGB 72dpiVMware announced today at VMworld2013 Europe that it has acquired Desktone, a provider of desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) with an advanced multi-tenant desktop virtualization platform for delivering Windows desktops and applications as a cloud service.

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Kaseya Traverse Launched for Advanced SaaS-Based Biz Service for Various Environments

Kaseya logoKaseya earlier this week announced the general availability of Kaseya Traverse, a solution that is now delivered as SaaS, and provides enterprise-class network performance monitoring, business service management (BSM) and predictive analytics for cloud, on-premise, hybrid, virtualized and distributed environments. The new offering provides a strong complement to Kaseya’s award-winning systems management suite of products, enabling proactive management and monitoring of the entire IT infrastructure.

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EVault Delivers Cloud Data Protection via NetApp, Joins Partner Program

evault logo p thumbnailEVault, today announced EVault Storage Cloud – Data Protection Service for NetApp. As part of the news at NetApp’s global technical conference, EVault also announced it has joined the NetApp partner program for Service Providers.

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8x8 Sells Off Dedicated Server Hosting Biz to IRC Company

8x8 logo 250px8x8, Inc. said today that it has sold its dedicated server hosting business to The IRC Company, Inc. (dba Black Lotus Communications) for $3 million in cash. The transaction signed and closed on September 30, 2013.

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Comcast Business Adds AnyMeeting Tool for SMBs to Cloud Marketplace

AnyMeeting-Comcast-Tablet-4-way-video-3Comcast Business announced today that AnyMeeting, a provider of small business web conferencing, has joined its Upware marketplace. Upware is a suite of cloud-based business solutions that can be purchased and accessed on-demand through Comcast’s integrated web portal.

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NetEnrich Aims to Simplify Hybrid IT with Unified Dashboard

justin crottyNetEnrich today announced two enhancements to its IT operations platform. The first is a new, customizable, widget-based dashboard that unifies both internally and externally hosted services and infrastructure into a single view, tell-all dashboard.

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StorageCraft Extends 30% Discount Rate Offer for Cloud Services

Storagecraft logoMSPs in the U.S. and Canada now have an extra month to take advantage of a 30-percent discount for using StorageCraft Cloud Services—the company has decided to extend the offer’s deadline to Oct. 31, 2013, due to the tremendous response that it has had from MSPs.

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CloudBerry Lab Offering New Revenue Ops for MSPs via Windows Azure Support

cloudberrylabCloudBerry Lab told us today that it is now offering a new revenue opportunity for all MSPs and Microsoft Partners by supporting Windows Azure Storage in its’ white-label Managed Backup.

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Guest Blog: Do you Know Who Controls Your Data?

Ari RabbanBy Ari Rabban, Co-founder and CEO,

Would you pay $33,000 for a used Dell PowerEdge R410 blade server? What if it were the one that made WikiLeaks a household name?

That’s what someone paid on eBay, where Bahnhof, Wikileaks’ hosting provider, put the server up for sale. The auction is a cautionary tale for any SMB that outsources its telecom or IT to a cloud provider.

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Ipanema Technologies Launches New Cloud Application Management Solution

ipanemaEarlier this week, Ipanema Technologies announced a new Cloud Application Management solution designed to help organizations better control their network resources. In particular, the CAM solution offers deeper insight into how applications, particularly those based in the cloud, are affecting a network, and can allow organizations to better guarantee application uptime.

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Converged Technology Group Expands MSP Platform with Cloud Services Rebranding

converged-technology-group-logoConverged Technology Group today released and rebranded its next-generation, cloud-based platform, Converged Assist as Assist360o. The platform is designed to provide a significantly more robust suite of efficiency, performance and control-enhancing features.

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eFolder Acquires Anchor to Deliver Cloud File Sync Solutions to MSPs

efolder logoWe heard from Ted Hulsy, VP of Marketing at eFolder, that the company has acquired Anchor Box, a startup that is based on providing file sync and share software tailored for MSPs, VARs and cloud providers. According to eFolder, the acquisition will position the company as the only channel-focused vendor that provides a complete solution suite for cloud backup, BDR services, and cloud file sync from a single supplier.

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Techaisle Survey Uncovers 15 Keys for Successful SMB Cloud Biz Management

techaisle logoWe heard today from our friend and contributing writer Anurag Agrawal, CEO, Techaisle, regarding his firm’s most recent study results. The survey, which was developed to understand the winning strategies for selling Cloud to SMBs, uncovered 15 best practices and critical differences between the activities and approaches of successful and unsuccessful SMB Cloud computing channel partners.

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The Cloud vs. Premises PBX War: Is Prem Dead?

Brian Ferguson DigiumBy Brian Ferguson, Product Marketing Manager, Digium

By now you obviously are aware that “Cloud” is a buzzword that has made its way into every corner of the tech industry, including telephony. Hosted PBX deployments are all the rage. The perception in the market is that everyone is running to vendors as fast as possible and putting their Unified Communications (UC) phone systems in the cloud. So does that mean that the premises-based PBX model is dead? Assuming the demise of the on-site PBX may be a reach.

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Digium Launches Digium Cloud Services with Acquisition of VocalCloud

Digium logoDigium earlier this week said that it acquired VocalCloud, a provider of cloud-based VoIP solutions, in order to create Digium Cloud Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Digium.

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Logicalis US Releases Assessment Quiz for IT Pros Moving to the Cloud

logicalisToday, Logicalis US released a series of four steps for IT Pros who are looking at moving their data center to the Cloud. In addition, the company released a short quiz for IT professionals, called the “Blueprint for IT Transformation,” that places organizations on a six step scale of on-premise to Cloud in readiness. This allows the test taker to see where they are currently, and offers next steps for moving to a more virtual environment.

The four tips for Virtualization, provided by Logicalis today, are:

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EMC, VMware Link Up on Software-Designed Storage Offerings

VMware logo blk RGB 72dpiEMC Corporation and VMware announced at this week’s VMworld event that they have joined together on a major investment and are continually focused on rapid advancement of software-defined storage architectures and emerging models for the way applications consume storage in virtualized environments.

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Former LPI Manager Jeff Dryall Joins VAR Dynamics as Biz Dev Director

Jeff DryallYou heard it here first…Jeff Dryall informed us today that he taken on a new position at VAR Dynamics as Director of Business Development. Dryall, who most recently was with Level Platforms, left a few weeks after the RMM company was acquired by AVG Technologies, and has since been looking for his next best opportunity.

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VaultLogix Announces Integration With LabTech Software

vaultlogix logoThis morning, VaultLogix announced and integration partnership with LabTech Software that will allow LabTech’s RMM solution to actively monitor Vaultlogix’s Advantage Cloud Backup and Recovery Service.

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Zendesk Help Center Portal Offers Self-Service Content Tools, Customization

Zendesk logo RGBCloud software provider Zendesk has launched Help Center, a self-service all-in-one knowledge base, community and customer portal designed. The new Help Center enables any company to create a self-service portal that is beautiful and relevant for their customers and is as simple to create and customize as a blog.

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Artisan Infrastructure Releases Object Based Cloud Storage Platform Trial

Artisan Infrastructure Logo1Earlier this week, Artisan Infrastructure announced that they have added object-based Cloud Storage options to their wholesale IaaS offerings. The main purpose of this new addition is to enable MSPs, VARs and CSPs to build enterprise cloud storage solutions.

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Microsoft Takes Narrow Lead in Antivirus Vendor Market

gI 81052 market-share-reports-press-release-imageOPSWAT today released its market share report, which includes analysis of antivirus, peer-to-peer, backup, and antiphishing application usage worldwide. In addition to market share coverage, the report provides a comprehensive breakdown of the most popular products in their respective category and how often certain product features are enabled.

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Broadview Links Cloud-Based Phone System to Salesforce, Other CRM Apps

BroadviewNetworks-Logo-MainBroadview Networks has launched the CRM Connector for OfficeSuite, its cloud-based business phone system. The new CRM Connector integrates OfficeSuite with and any other TAPI-enabled (Telephony Application Programming Interface) CRM application to provide businesses with a fully integrated communications solution that improves employee efficiency and effectiveness.

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Ipswitch File Transfer Announces New Cloud Referral Program

ipswitchThis morning, Ipswitch File Transfer announced the debut of a new partner referral program aimed at helping resellers expand their cloud offerings. The company released a cloud-based version of their MOVEit solution, a secure managed file program, which is the main focus of the new referral program.

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independenceIT Announces Leadership Changes

iIT-logo-medindependenceIT has made some changes to its leadership team with MSP cloud services pioneer Jim Lippie promoted to CEO and corporate development veteran Seth Bostock as president and COO.

iIT’s flagship offering, the Cloud Workspace Suite, is widely recognized as the industry’s most comprehensive channel-only Desktop as a Service (DaaS) solution, delivering recurring revenue for VARs, ISPs and MSPs.

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Develop Your Hybrid IT “Hedge Strategy”

XI Icons BSHHSOur apologies in advance for interjecting a “sophisticated investor” conversation into the SMB IT Pro community. However, those of us serving small businesses on Main Street can learn something from Wall Street. It’s true, as you will discover.

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StorageCraft Offers Discount to MSP Partners

storagecraft smallYesterday, StorageCraft announced the start of a new offer for Canadian and US MSP partners, which includes a 30% discount on new devices using the company’s StorageCraft Cloud Services Platform. The offer will run until 30 September, 2013.

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Guest Blog: Avoiding the Darker Context behind the Phrase "End of Life"

Laura-Shafer  headshot -100x100By Laura Shafer, Director of Product Marketing, StorageCraft

There are few terms that stop people cold quite as much as the phrase End of Life. No matter what the context, the subject is very ominous. Even in most discussions that I have about software end of life here at StorageCraft, the subject brings on some squeamishness and a lot of squirming. We even give it an acronym—E.O.L.—to make sure we don’t have to think about its darker context.

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Unitrends Launches Service Provider Program for BDR

538784 10151006214355426 233882944 nUnitrends said today that it is launching a new Service Provider Program, which equips hosting, managed services and cloud providers with the agile infrastructure needed to simply and cost-effectively offer onsite and offsite backup and disaster recovery services to their customers. 

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Guest Blog: Why Protecting the Network Edge is Crucial for SMBs Using Cloud, Co-Location

Michael MaielloBy Michael Maiello, Senior Vice President, Home and Business Networks, Schneider Electric

In today’s fast-paced and digitally-dependent world, companies are always looking to reduce IT operating expenses while also keeping their networks at 100 percent availability. To meet this growing demand for high availability at low cost, IT departments are increasingly turning to cloud applications and co-location strategies for physical IT infrastructure. In fact, Gartner recently forecast an 18.5 percent growth rate for public global cloud services in 2013, worth $131 billion worldwide, with companies poised to spend $677 billion on cloud services worldwide through 2016.*

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GFI Software Introduces New Cloud Partner Program

gfi logoEarlier this week, GFI Software announced the premiere of a new channel partner program focused on helping current and prospective partners better understand the company’s cloud-based solutions. This program will be running from now until November 2013, and will feature a new aspect of the GFI Cloud solution each month.

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LogMeIn Announces Long-Awaited Channel Program for Cloud App Services

ElevateThis morning, LogMeIn unveiled its channel partner program, which is designed to help MSPs, VARs and other outsourced IT providers help capitalize on the increasing shift to cloud-based apps and employee-introduced technology.

The new program, which will be known as LogMeIn Elevate, will give channel partners new ways for managing users across devices that blur work and personal lines, as well as across cloud-based apps and related data that span this myriad of devices.  The channel program will also open the doors to resell LogMeIn’s cloud collaboration apps, like and Cubby, giving MSPs, VARs and IT service providers new ways to establish and grow client relationships. 

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Dell Gets into Canadian Public Cloud!

We heard today that PEER 1 Hosting (not to be confused with retailer Pier One) has formed a strategic alliance with Dell to deliver cloud services in Canada. The Web hosting provider, which is the newest addition to Dell’s recently announced public cloud partner program, will service the critical Canadian market and help Dell provide its customers with choice and capabilities.

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Datto Acquires Paradeon Technologies to Form Datto UK

Datto said today that it has acquired distribution partner Paradeon Technologies in order to further expand into the UK and EU markets. Marking the first stop of an ongoing international expansion program, the UK site will include a dedicated office with sales, operations and marketing teams focused on the UK and broader EU sectors.

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Vocalocity is SMB Nation’s Official Phone System!

About 12 months ago, SMB Nation and Vocalocity teamed up on a partnership in which the hosted PBX provider would offer our company phone services for all of its employees at its Bainbridge Island, WA headquarters, and also those who work out of their home offices.

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CA’s Channel Index Reveals SMBs Switching IT Budgets from Reactive to Proactive Projects

Companies are increasingly switching their IT budgets from routine maintenance toward more innovative projects that enable revenue-generating services, according to the CA Technologies Channel Index 2013.

Of the more than 550 partners worldwide who participated in the company’s online survey, it was revealed that, on average, partners spend 34 percent of their time helping customers with innovation projects that enable new revenue-generating services. The conventional wisdom is that 80 percent of a company’s IT budget is typically spent on maintenance and operations, leaving just 20 percent for innovation initiatives.

Two priority areas for IT investment emerged from this research: enterprise mobility and cloud. Enterprise mobility is becoming increasingly more widespread, providing customers and employees with new and convenient ways of accessing enterprise applications. With this comes added complexity to the IT environment and new challenges to manage and keep the IT environment secure.

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Guest Blog: Five Ways the Cloud Makes Small Businesses Look Big

By Ari Rabban, CEO and Co-Founder,

For small businesses, part of the appeal of cloud-based IT and communications services is that they provide access to technologies they otherwise couldn’t afford. That access helps level the playing field because small businesses now are better able to provide service and support on par with large enterprises.

Here are five examples of cloud technologies that are bridging the digital divide to give small businesses a large enterprise cachet...

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A Third-Way – Dell Wyse WSM

Smarter minds reading this blog will recall the “Third Way,” which was a political strategy contrived between Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to find middle ground between liberal and conservatives (

As I spoke with Dan O’Farrell, Sr. Director, Product Marketing at Dell Cloud Client Computing, and Manish Bhaskar, Director, Product Management at Dell Cloud Client Computing discuss the Dell Wyse WSM cloud computing paradigm, I felt like I was seeing a “third way” to deploy cloud-based virtual desktop solutions to customers. In reality, I was supposed to share the WSM 6 release (more on that in a moment. But first I want to introduce you to a “third way” to deploy cloud desktops (the other two being VDI and VPN). WSM is software that supports virtual desktops ( It’s like having all the security and management ease of VDI *but* having local processor activity. In effect, the Wyse dumb terminal is now smarter.

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MSP Exigent Technologies Offers Turnkey Cloud Services for NY/NJ SMBs

Exigent Technologies today launched its new service TurnKey Cloud, which makes it easy and affordable for New Yorkers and New Jerseyans (who are SMBs) to quickly and confidently adopt cloud computing solutions.

Available immediately, Exigent’s TurnKey Cloud services are purpose-built for SMBs and include customizable, cloud-based infrastructure solutions and data center services that ensure business availability and enable smaller companies to consume information technology as a service (IaaS), rather than a continuous expenditure.

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Zenith Infotech Veteran Maurice Saluan Joins EmeCloud as VP Sales

About a month or so ago, it was reported that Maurice Saluan, had stepped down from his position as VP of Sales at Zenith Infotech. I spoke with Saluan following the news, and he told me that he was in talks with a few companies, but was waiting for the best opportunity to come along. 

Well now, today, Maurice informed us that he has joined EmeCloud as VP of Sales. The Bradenton, FL-based company partners with IT Service Providers worldwide to help them capitalize on Cloud Computing opportunities; this could be a small, 5 user-environment to hundreds of users in multiple locations. EmeCloud’s clients enjoy the benefits of a unified solution where they can access their data in the cloud from anywhere.

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Microsoft WPC: Parallels Expands MSFT Cloud Offerings for CSPs

Parallels this week at the Microsoft WPC has launched support for a Microsoft Azure Pack for Hosting Providers and updates to a collection of cloud service delivery solutions for Microsoft partners. The solution, developed in collaboration with Microsoft’s server and tools business group, is in addition to the new support of Microsoft Azure Pack for Hosting.

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Raising Your Hand – Discussing Trustworthy Computing!

The timing couldn’t have been better following the NSA whistleblower matter. I recently met with Microsoft executive Tim Rains to review his new study titled “Bridging the Gap: Cloud Computing Delivers Surprise Silver Lining for Business,” which focuses on security and reliability. But first–a wee bit of background on the whole trustworthy computing initiative inside Microsoft.

Click on the image at right to view my chat with Tim Rains.

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Cloud|AG, SkyKick Team Up to Migrate Clients to Office 365

In an effort to help drive down the cost and complexity of migrating clients to Office 365, Cloud|AG has selected SkyKick as their cloud migration service of choice.

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KineticD Enhances Hybrid Cloud Backup Solution to Support SharePoint

KineticDEarlier this week, KineticD announced enhancements to their KineticCloud Backup for Servers. Many of these enhancements offer support for data on Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and 2013.

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ADTRAN’s ProCloud Program Allows for Hosted, Fully Managed Wi-Fi

ADTRAN kicked off the first phase of its ProCloud managed services program with a hosted and fully-managed Wi-Fi service offering. It’s no worries with the ADTRAN ProCloud Wi-Fi services—it’s a managed, business-class Wi-Fi service, built on ADTRAN’s multi-tenant Bluesocket virtual WLAN solution.

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Anturis Moves from Beta to Commercial Launch of Cloud-Based Monitoring Solution for SMBs

Anturis has moved from Beta to its official commercial launch and availability of its new and enhanced cloud-based monitoring and troubleshooting solution for web services and IT infrastructure. Designed for SMBs that generally do not have access to, or budgets for, a dedicated IT department, the Anturis commercial service delivers enterprise-grade IT infrastructure monitoring and troubleshooting in a simple, easy-to-setup and use browser-based cloud solution.

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Symantec 2013 Global SMB IT Confidence Index Now Available

SymantecEarlier this week, Symantec released the results of their 2013 Global SMB IT Confidence Index. This report is based on the responses from 2452 SMB organizations (1-20 employees) from 20 countries, all of whom were asked 17 questions which were condensed to form an overall confidence rating. Respondents were all responsible for their organization’s IT. The report found three tiers of SMB in terms of business success, top, middle and bottom, which correlated directly to their confidence score.

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