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The portfolio of options for business communication solutions is bursting at the seams, yet it often feels more difficult than ever to find the solution that’s best suited for each business.

Microsoft’s rebranding of Lync and introduction of Skype for Business affected the entire community of users and Microsoft partners as business and personal communication tools mixed and integrated.

This shift has created a new ecosystem filled with both dangers and opportunities.

Join SMB Nation and Greg Plum from 10 to 11 a.m. Thursday, July 30 to learn how Skype for Business is changing the way businesses communicate and how it can lead to business growth.

For more details and registration, click here. This webinar is sponsored by Globanet.

Dell releases SonicWALL series designed for SMBs

Wireless networks are necessary for almost all businesses both at the small business and enterprise level, yet securing networks that include myriad systems and users can be costly and dangerous to data if not properly selected or maintained.

Dell announced today availability of its SonicWALL TZ Wireless Firewall Series, wireless network security solutions designed to deliver 802.11ac wireless performance and security for at a low cost.

"Attacks against all networks – including wireless networks – are becoming more sophisticated, and require a solution that ensures the highest level of security without compromising performance or bandwidth. We observed a 100 percent increase in the use of HTTPS traffic to obfuscate content,” said Patrick Sweeney, Dell Security executive director. “Whether that is wired or wireless traffic, it’s a problem for security. Dell SonicWALL TZ wireless firewalls support the latest high-speed 802.11ac wireless standard, as well as the ability to inspect encrypted traffic, helping to ensure ultra-secure connectivity. Our TZ wireless firewalls also provide a multi-layered approach to security that leverages our industry-leading deep packet inspection, application intelligence, control and visualization, as well as central management technology to provide an easy-to-deploy, high performing solution for both SMBs and large, distributed enterprises."

The TZ wireless firewalls can be combined with other solutions to scale to different environments.

appriver logo emailwebsecurityexperts stackedKeep your friends close, and your enemies closer. For North American companies and individuals, this old statement came true in Q2 with more than 50 percent of spam messages originating in North America.

Appriver released results yesterday from the Q2 Global Security Report, a summary and analysis of spam and malware. AppRiver quarantined 4.7 billion spam messages between April and June 2015, and blocked 165 million messages containing attachments with viruses.

“It is more important than ever for companies to educate their staff on the seriousness of the breach problem, because hackers don’t announce themselves, but rather they attempt to work in darkness to minimize detection ultimately maximizing the size and scope of their breach,” said Fred Touchette, senior security analyst, AppRiver.

The full report, available here, details current malware trends, discusses Q2 breaches and reminds all who use email of the importance of effective security measures.

Competitors hoping to entice both small business and enterprise customers need to offer fair, scalable pricing with high-quality solutions, and VoIP provider Digium realized this with Switchvox Cloud 6.0.

Digium, Inc. announced yesterday the release of cloud-based UC service Switchvox Cloud 6.0, which now offers a metered pricing structure for organizations with low usage patterns that want the features and opportunities of a business-class phone service.

"Switchvox Cloud's new, lower cost, metered offering starts at $12.99 per user, per month, reducing the barrier to entry for customers looking to migrate to cloud communications," said Channing Hinkle, product manager for Switchvox Cloud.  "Companies with variable call volumes, due to seasonality or other events, can save money by paying for only the minutes they use.  It's the perfect complement to our current Switchvox Cloud unlimited minutes offering for users with more consistent call volumes."

Important features of version 6.0 include updated call control and call visibility widgets, options for integration with CRM tools such as Salesforce and enhanced administrative tools.

Security solution provider Trend Micro Incorporated announced yesterday availability of cloud and data center platform Trend Micro Deep Security on the Azure Marketplace.

The solution is designed to extend security provided by Microsoft Azure and help organizations meet their shared security-enhanced responsibilities.

“We are pleased that Trend Micro Deep Security is now available on the Azure Marketplace,” said Nicole Herskowitz, senior director of Product Marketing, Microsoft Azure. “By making Trend Micro Deep Security available on our cloud platform, Trend Micro is providing automated cloud security for Azure workloads to customers around the world.”

Deep Security meets PCI and HIPAA requirements and defends against malware and network attacks.

3D printer manufacturer XYZprinting announced today it partnered with D&H Distributing to expand distribution of its 3D printers and products.

Its printers are the most affordable worldwide, according to XYZprinting, as it strives to open the door to 3D accessibility for SMBs and the K-12 and higher education sectors.

“XYZprinting offers a wide variety of 3D printers to satisfy different customer needs at a competitive pricepoints. We’re thrilled to provide their industry-leading, accessible and affordable 3D printers to our rapidly expanding list of customers,” said Rob Eby, vice president of purchasing at D&H. “As 3D printing continues to drive demand in the marketplace, especially in the education sector, we look forward to working with XYZprinting to increase consumer accessibility to these sought-after solutions.”  

The XYZprinting 3D printers start at $399, and users can build everything from phone and music player cases to children’s toys.

By Pete Engler

As a business owner, you know the best formula for distributing funds and other resources throughout your organization in order to support growth. Even so, the budgeting process can be tedious, and for small to medium businesses (SMBs) there is often a give-and-take strategy. That means sacrifices may be required in one or more areas of the company to allow for larger investments in another part of the business.  The first question then becomes: Where are the cuts (or savings) going to come from to help fuel your plans for growth? The next question should be: Are there any alternatives to help offset the ‘sacrifices’ you’re making, or are there creative ways to add resources without implementing drastic cost-cutting measures? If you are a value added reseller, the answer to the second question is a resounding, “Yes - there are alternatives!”  

The vendors, whose products and services you sell, may hold the key to you accessing platforms and services that could be utilized within your organization as part of your growth strategy. By tapping into these vendor-provided resources, not only does it help you avoid having to make cutbacks, but it may also free up precious cash in your budget. After all, why invest in marketing or training solutions with your dollars if one of your vendors offers you access to similar solutions as a benefit of their channel program?

Before your next cycle of budget planning begins, take a closer look at the sales, marketing, and training tools, along with any other resources your vendors provide. Here are some examples of common vendor-provided resources and support that have been successful for partners:

Training tools are extremely important resources to utilize for your entire customer-facing staff.  Having a well-educated staff for the products and services you offer translates into satisfied customers, especially if your business model is that of a managed services provider. When your customer calls in with an issue, having a knowledgeable staff to answer the call will help lead to a quick resolution and make a significant difference in that customer’s experience. Some vendors may also provide partners with free (or discounted) end-user training videos and classes that you can offer to your customers. Using these pre-packaged resources means you don’t have to invest money in creating your own training materials or programs (and in some cases, you can sell the training and use it as another revenue source).    

Content Syndication is a web-based tool that allows vendors to replicate product or service microsites to their resellers. That means you get a hassle-free way to add vendor-specific product and service information to your website. Content syndication services are usually pretty simple to use so you don’t have to invest in a lot of extra web resources. While the vendor controls the information and how it is presented, as a reseller, you benefit from the consistent look and feel of the design, and from having up-to-date information maintained by the vendor with minimal effort needed by you to implement these tools. For replicating microsites the process is as easy as generating HTML code from the content syndication platform and adding it to your website. In addition to providing product-related content, some content syndication platforms also provide email functionality and social media, or social sharing, functionality. This additional marketing support can make a big difference for your business.

Joint webinars are seminars conducted over the Internet by a vendor and reseller. They allow your customers to get information, answer questions, see a product or service in action or become educated as to how the product or solution can solve problems they are experiencing in their business. Webinars are great for any level of customer interest but may work best for those not too far along in the decision-making process. Vendors will often host the webinar with you, or provide you with webinar content so you can host your own. This saves you from investing your marketing efforts to create a webinar from scratch. And, if using the vendor’s webinar hosting solution (such as GoToWebinar), you avoid having to pay for the cost of that solution.

Lunch and learns are in-person training or educational opportunities designed to circulate information to the attendees on a specific topic. Lunch and learns present a more personal experience and should typically be reserved for prospects further along in the buying process but haven’t committed to a purchase. These prospects may need this extra, in-person session to be swayed into making that final decision. Vendors will often provide you with program content, marketing messaging and materials to promote it. They may even send additional sales or technical support to help you properly staff the event.

Live event promotions can be more creative and casual than a standard lunch and learn. Vendors are usually willing to help you identify, promote, and host a fun, but effective prospecting event. While golf tournaments may be come to mind, ask vendors for insight into alternative events that have been effective for other channel partners. A couple of ideas that have worked in the past includeaMovie afternoons/evening event and even an indoor skydiving event. Typically there is a sales pitch before or after the event to the prospects. These types of events would also be perfect for prospects well along the purchasing decision process that need a final push to make a buying decision.

Partner Portal is a website that allows a vendor's partner community to access marketing resources, pricing and sales information, as well as technical details and support (that may be unavailable to end users). For example, a partner portal may list promotions or discounts for the partner or end user, marketing collateral, competitive data, selling practices, training or support information, and host of other content. The partner portal is typically accessed through the vendor's website, with the use of sign on credentials assigned to each partner. Having access to this information can be extremely helpful, especially competitive data and industry insights/reports that you may otherwise have to pay for or spend lots of time researching and putting together on your own.

Marketing Collateral is the collection of tools used to support the sales of a product or service. Collateral can be, but is not limited to, printed and electronic product information (brochures, flyers, postcards, etc.), product data sheets, white papers, PowerPoint presentations, competitive battle cards, case studies and more. These tools are intended to make the sales effort easier and more effective. Using co-branded vendor collateral can benefit you by creating credibility for your business. It also provides your marketing and sales teams an effective way of explaining the benefits of the vendor’s product or service.


The marketing tools can vary a great deal between vendors, from simple collateral (brochures, competitor slicks, etc) and promotions (giveaways, contests) to the shared cost of events and B2B platforms that integrate into a reseller’s sales tools (website, content syndication, etc). Utilizing all that is offered by a vendor will still require using some of your own budget, but it’s possible to further offset the costs if there is potential for using marketing development funds (MDF.) MDFs are funds made available by avendor to help channel partners sell its products and create awareness. Regardless of the availability of MDF funds, there should still be plenty of vendor-provided tools and resources available to make your sales process easier and help supplement your company’s own resources to make your budget stretch a little farther.

Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.

Using social media for virtual networking and relationship-building is a modern key to success in any industry, and especially essential to MSPs and other members of the channel community that may not always meet their clients face-to-face as often as they'd like.scott in seattle

Social media should brand company leaders, rather than just the company as a whole, Microsoft SBS leader and SMB Nation member Scott Cayouette said. Executives should take advantage of platforms from Facebook fan pages to video blogs that give them a direct opportunity to create connections with current and potential customers. Twitter and LinkedIn, too, continue to be an important part of networking strategies.

With his roles as a managing partner at IPW Networks and MyLeadSystem Pro affiliate, Scott is invested in helping company leaders to do just what he suggests and build a strong social media presence.

“The more people get to see what you look like, the more they feel like they get to know you,” Scott said. “It solves that age old issue: Who are they, and what are they like? By the time they meet you, they feel like they know you.”

MyLeadSystem Pro, a social media affiliate platform providing strategies and trainings to help affiliates and their clients create a well-branded multi-platform social media approach, also offers opportunities for additional income from lead and referral generation. Though it began in 2008 as a network marketing resource, it has transformed into a platform designed to help small businesses of all kinds.

MLSP also provides tools for customer relationship management, tied closely today with companies’ and company leaders’ social media presence and execution.

Through his participation in this platform and others, Scott continues to act as the trusted adviser he’s always strived to be for his clients and peers. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn, Twitter, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more.

WPC Wrap

Posted by on in News

I’ll take one last look back at the recently completed Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) held in mid-July in Orlando, Fla. Then it’s forward to the future.

First the fun, and then the facts.WPC Wrap Harry Posing

As usual, it was non-stop merriment clouded only by the summer humidity. As always, there were too many parties to attend. I didn’t have to pay for nourishment for nearly a week as I ate my way through the WPC party circuit! The party scene is worth the price of admission alone and not just for the fun. I’d offer it’s where relationships start, strengthen and legends are born. I often say that it’s the evening where I do “business” best!

Interestingly – the “best booth” I personally observed was the simple IBM booth with no accessories. A lady sitting in a chair was handing out job listings. She was poaching Microsoft employees and partners right on the show floor carpet, a smart move in light of the Microsoft layoffs. I’m sure her $50,000 investment in a double-wide booth was worth it!

The most interesting solution is Dell’s CloudRunner solution. Essentially, it’s a marketplace offering similar to Ingram’s Cloud Marketplace (which I wrote about here) and Odin’s CSP marketplace infrastructure (which Patrick Houston wrote about here). It’s interesting how Dell is achieving a certain degree of synergy with its vast portfolio of software and services. It can now support a comprehensive marketplace for CSPs as a one-stop shop. You can read editorial assistant Kate Hall’s coverage of CloudRunner here, and I will blog on this soon as it deserves standalone treatment.

My blue badge friend Diane Golshan is an oracle of all things Microsoft SMB Partner and the person behind the tweets and Facebooks posts. She has written THE blog summarizing WPC and listing worthy highlights and resources! Read here:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/msuspartner/archive/2015/07/19/your-opportunities-and-resources-from-wpc-2015.aspxNext, the numbers as I know them. I heard WPC was down 25 percent in real attendance before I left Seattle, but vendors were told it was 15,000 to 16,000 attendees, much like last year in Washington, D.C. It was difficult to tell what the real number was as Microsoft WPC “wore it well,” arguably having a smaller floor (pole-and-drape pulled in), a smaller Commons area making all tables FULL and the same with the dining area. I’m in show business and know the tricks of the trade. My compliments to Microsoft for being dressed to the nines out on the exhibit floor!

Bottom line – the show worked for me. I returned with over 100 leads. And that’s what it’s all about! I will repeat next year in Toronto but I’m frustrated it’s going back there for the third time in 10 years. I was hoping for San Francisco with Microsoft’s new “openness,” but the event planners didn’t ask for my opinion.

Navigating the channel and its opportunities can be like boating on the open sea—simple and intuitive for those with extensive experience, but tumultuous and dangerous for those trying it for the first time.

GetChanneled, a virtual channel chief consulting firm, opened and began accepting clients today as its co-founders, SMB channel veterans Brian Sherman and Ted Roller, strive to help technology organizations succeed in the channel.

“Whether a Fortune 500 company or an emerging vendor, building a successful channel program can be a challenging prospect,” Roller, GetChanneled virtual channel chief, said. “Our team simplifies the process, helping developers and tech organizations develop a strategy, design a go to market plan, then follow through on implementation. GetChanneled will identify the best options for each prospective vendor, from their sales and marketing plans to public relations and industry alliance needs.”

GetChanneled begins with an evaluation of clients' capabilities and needs in the channel, and works with the organizations through development and execution of a channel program.

Simplicity and predictability are key to SMBs and the MSPs serving them, and a new partnership offers additional opportunities for MSPs to simplify delivery of cloud services.

Dell announced today expansion of its IT-as-a-service offerings for MSPs through a collaboration with CloudRunner, Inc. providing MSPs with a simple, turnkey platform to mass deploy applications on virtual desktops for SMB customers.

“SMBs want easy-to-use technology they can consume and pay for through a predictable, pay-as-you-go monthly model. With CloudRunner, Dell partners achieve this goal by delivering a complete, turnkey platform that automates commodity IT services delivered in a click-together experience for SMB IT needs,” said Darrin Swan, director of worldwide sales and business development, Dell Service Provider Program. “Dell is committed to helping our MSP partners drive additional recurring revenue by ensuring their position as trusted technical advisors to their SMB customers.”

CloudRunner from Dell delivers cloud services via a pay-for-value-as-consumed method through a platform designed to accelerate cloud adoption and improve accessibility.

Interested MSPs can find out more about the Dell-CloudRunner partnership and the benefits of the platform here.

Technology and the channel have deep roots in Washington state, with home to technology giants Amazon and Microsoft and IT cloud solutions leaders including SkyKick and BitTitan.

SkyKick announced today the Seattle Business magazine recognized it as one of Washington’s 100 best companies to work for, an honor based on confidential employee surveys analyzing factors including corporate culture, benefits and employee development.

“This recognition comes at a moment of pivotal growth for SkyKick,” said Evan Richman, founder and co-CEO at SkyKick. “With recent additional funding, we’re expanding our teams to support the global demand for our latest products by investing in our most valuable asset, our employees. This award reflects our commitment to provide a positive workspace and shared mission, helping ensure we continue to offer leading cloud services to our highly valued channel partners.”

SkyKick continues to grow, recently launching a new category of cloud management products and securing $10 million in strategic financing in June.

“SkyKick is one of those rare companies that can manage explosive growth while keeping their employees motivated and excited to come to work every day,” said Michael Romoser, associate publisher of Seattle Business.

“The Top 100” PDF from Seattle Business is available here.

Healthcare clients have high security concerns as they work to maintain HIPAA compliance and protect patients’ privacy, creating an opportunity for MSPs to step in and provide support.  rapidfire tools

RapidFire Tools Inc. announced results of a survey of its MSP customers selling to the healthcare marketplace that allowed it to gauge the success and profitability of the Network Detective HIPAA Compliance Module.

The survey revealed use of the module by respondents frequently led to opportunities to begin new projects and capture sales with clients striving to maintain compliance and avoid fines.

“Assessment is even more critical in the healthcare marketplace, where a facility is vulnerable to business-jeopardizing fees—potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars—if they have not conducted a mandated Risk Assessment to document their compliance,” said Mike Mittel, CEO and president of RapidFire Tools. “We are delighted that our MSPs have been able to rely on our HIPAA Compliance tool in the field, turning those compliance review sessions into concrete revenue-building opportunities. It’s something MSPs can utilize right now to grow their businesses.”

Interested MSPs can learn more about RapidFire Tools’ network assessment modules here or at its presentation at the SMB Tech Fest July 23-24 in Charlotte, N.C.

RapidFire Tools is scheduled to inform MSPs and dealers about network assessment at events this year including the upcoming SMB Tech Fest event on July 23 - 24 in Charlotte, N.C.

Today’s leading SMBs need to find and retain the best talent, depending on modern and digital human resources strategies to engage with their workforce.oracle

Oracle announced today enhancements and new features in the Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud, released as part of Oracle Applications Cloud Release 10.

“To take advantage of all the changes that digital technologies enable in the workforce, organizations need to be able to quickly, easily, and cost-effectively take advantage of modern HR best practices,” said Chris Leone, Senior Vice President, Applications Development, Oracle. “The latest release of Oracle HCM Cloud is specifically designed to help global organizations embrace modern HR and includes a number of exciting new innovations, particularly in the work-life space, that will help our customers drive positive business outcomes across the enterprise.”

Updated capabilities include analytics, workforce optimization, performance management and position management.

Online content creation may not be rocket science, but it can quickly become difficult and costly for SMBs lacking experience and time.

Readz introduced yesterday Readz 2.0, an online content-creation platform that enables marketers to deploy interactive, well-designed sites and web documents for both browsers and mobile devices.

“Less than 25 percent of today’s B2B web traffic is driven from mobile devices, and an even smaller percentage of that generates revenue. This is primarily because most web content is static and requires time-consuming downloads that users don’t want to deal with,” CEO Bart De Pelsmaeker said. “Readz helps clients create interactive stories and experiences that draw customers and prospects into the content and engages them in ways that were not possible before.”

The platform is hosted entirely online and allows users to adjust settings and style through a simple web interface.

Pricing for the Readz 2.0 platform starts at $90 per month.

WPC report: Ingram cloud insurgency continues

Posted by on in News

Some readers will recall with interest Ingram’s early bleeding edge cloud marketplace attempts before the Great Recession and the Obama Administration. It was 2008, and Ingram’s Seismic initiative was way ahead of its time at our SMB Nation Fall 2008 conference in downtown Seattle. Industry leader Justin Crotty spearheaded the initiative and started a long journey to change a culture, something that typically takes a generation.ingram wpc 2015 edited

Suffice it to say, one technology generation has now passed and Ingram’s early evangelical missionary outreach is now resulting in conversions with its now-branded Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace. I caught up with Dan Shapero, Director, Global Cloud Marketing Ingram Micro and his team at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) this week in Orlando, Fla. for an update on how Ingram intends to maintain momentum on its early cloud adopter, now cloud leader status.

Shapero shared Ingram is capitalizing on two Microsoft cloud strategies.

Advisor to Cloud Services Provider (CSP) Program

Ingram is taking an opportunity to help resellers transition away from the legacy Microsoft cloud advisor program, which was essentially a referral program wherein MSPs felt they gave up client control.

“We’re helping the CSP take control back of customers with the new CSP program,” Shapero said. “The CSP can manage the end customers, do the billing, provide support and select the pricing.”

The new role allows the Microsoft partners to "repurchase customers," which on the surface seems like an odd concept. An example best illustrates the situation: You are Joe the CSP, and you have 50 Office 365 E3 customers. That would be 50 licenses and on the advisor model today. In order to move to the new CSP program, you would allow the legacy advisor-based Office 365 E3-liceneses to expire and then purchase the equivalent Office 365 E3-licenses under new CSP program. On the surface, this isn’t nearly as complicated as a debt repurchase program on Wall Street LOL!

But I was appropriately skeptical. Having been the victim of Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM programs where partner licenses were “transferred” to a new program such as internal use right, I immediately thought of the service interruptions that I have personally experienced and the staff downtime my company, SMB Nation, has suffered. Shapero asserted that there is no interruption in service.

“We launched that motion on May 15, and 120 opportunities converted in first month and no interruption,” Shapero trumpeted.

So, how does this motion occur? This partner motion happens via the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace where the process enables the repurchase and the CSP functionality.

More Marketplaces

The second pillar message at WPC was the introduction of four new Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplaces. These “marketplaces” are by geography and now exceed 13 territories with language and currency support.

The baseline marketplace experience is a business-to-business experience between Ingram and the CSP. As an extension of the marketplace, any reseller has access to the ability to set-up a business-to-customer (B2C) storefront to serve end customers. This B2C storefront includes brand integration (the customer would not know the name Ingram Micro) and a web store to allow end customer to purchase solutions directly from the CSP and even in self-service mode.

Additional features and benefits include the ability to set-up promos, cross-sell and upsell. A sophisticated shopping cart feature dynamically features promos and specials links after point of check-out. Let me explain. When you are nearly done shopping at Amazon, you are often presented with additional offers and incentives to add to your cart. If you purchased a camera, you are contextually offered the opportunity to add camera lens and a tripod. It’s a bona fide retail motion that can add incremental sales revenue, of course.

“The CSP, can even add his or her own service SKUs as a recommended cross-sell option,” Shapero said. “For example, perhaps the customer would like to bundle a managed service option with the Office 365 licensing purchase at check out. The managed services SKU would be unique to the CSP’s own market conditions, pricing, services provided, etc.”

Bottom Line: Put Ingram Micro on your watch list, as it seeks to extend its lead among major distributors in the cloud marketplace.

 

It’s a week of new Microsoft compatibility during the annual Microsoft WPC, which brings together Microsoft partners and users from all four corners of the globe.

PcoIP developer Teradici announced today availability of the Teradici Pervasive Computing Platform on Microsoft Azure, enabling Microsoft partners to build and deliver virtual workspaces and vertical applications on Azure via Teradici’s extensible platform.

This announcement follows what seems to be the theme for WPC—transitioning to the cloud, and quickly. The platform, based in the cloud, is designed to neutralize cloud security concerns and provide easy access to fast, high-performance development.

“Microsoft is one of the world’s leading cloud providers and hosts a vast ecosystem of innovative partners who are building unique end-user computing solutions on its open, flexible and scalable cloud infrastructure,” Teradici CEO Dan Cordingley said. “With the Teradici Pervasive Computing Platform, Microsoft partners can unlock the full potential of Azure to deliver enhanced workspaces and applications that are accessible anywhere, on any device.”

More information on the Teradici Pervasive Computing Platform is available here.

By Patrick Houston, SMB Nation editor-in-chief

Channel partners can take another step up the ladder to recurring revenue and services. This time, the rung comes courtesy of Odin, the formerly named Parallels services provider business. Odin WPC

It announced at the 2015 Microsoft Worldwide Partners Conference that its automated provisioning platform for Office 365 and Exchange will now also enable its partners to provision, bill, and support Microsoft’s Azure services.

In so doing, it says it becomes one the first companies to support Azure services automation through the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider Program (CSP) program. Now, it’s possible for its partners to “auto-magically” offer an end-to-end suite of Microsoft services, also including Enterprise Mobility Suite and hundreds of other complementary Odin-enabled services.

Odin’s new service underscores the increasing significance of automated deployment and management — and integration, too, as businesses choose a mix of best-of-breed applications and platforms for their mission-critical processes.

The transition may have only just begun, but we’re seeing a growing number channel partners embracing integrated cloud services as their next evolutionary step, especially as SMBs transition to Microsoft’s Office 365 in droves and now that they have no other choice, since Microsoft officially ends support for Windows Server 2003 on July 14.

In a pre-announcement briefing, Odin VP Alex Danyluk told us cloud-services automation is quickly becoming a do-or-die proposition. No doubt. Managed service providers face the same pressures as middlemen everywhere -- unrelenting pressure to deliver services faster and more cost-effectively.

In its announcement, Odin said its partners have already delivered more than 1.7 million Office 365 and Exchange business class email seats.

  • Highlights of Odin Service Automation for Azure in CSP include:
  • Unified and automated provisioning, billing and customer management across services
  • A plug-and-play CSP module that eliminates coding, integration and service update complexity
  • Bundled Azure services with many other Microsoft offerings, including Office 365
  • Ability to automate and build value-added hybrid applications

Accepting cloud technology seems to still be up in the air for Microsoft partners and their customers, according to results from a harmon.ie report released today, “Transitioning to the Mobile Cloud: Microsoft Office 365 Opportunities and Challenges for Microsoft Ecosystem Partners.”

Office 365 continues to gain momentum, harmon.ie found, yet no service offered by the partners included in the report was expected to contribute more than 25 percent of overall revenue.

“We are at a tipping point as an industry. There is no doubt that businesses are moving to Microsoft Office 365, but on-premises is certainly not going away,” harmon.ie CEO Yaacov Cohen said. “Although the mobile-first, cloud-first era is still in its infancy, now is the time for partners to craft services and solutions to ease their customers’ migration concerns while driving immediate business agility and CAPEX savings. As the market matures, partners will face multiple opportunities to gain critical new skillsets and build a recurring cloud-based revenue stream.”

Email is leading the cloud charge, but lingering security and migration concerns are preventing gains in cloud use businesswide.

More than 190 Microsoft partners participated in development of the report, available in full here.

In a prior life, I was a college professor. True that!

So when I was recently offered the opportunity to check in on the state of private colleges and universities, I flew the jump seat down to Denver. I attended the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities’ (APSCU) annual convention in early June. It was an amazing experience as an outside analyst looking in.

A bit of historical context. After finishing graduate school in the mid-1980s, I immediately went to the front of the room to serve as an instructor at Alaska Computer Institute (ACI) in my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska. I taught computerized accounting at essentially the vocational/technical-level and loved it. My experience in that position led to a 12-year run of teaching for many universities, including Central Washington University and Seattle Pacific University. I observed that ACI benefits from being a counter-cyclical “product” in Alaska’s mid-1980s oil recession. The classroom was packed and student funding was readily available to retrain people. While I wasn’t directly involved in recruiting students, I recall the old-school tactics used included radio and TV ads, print ads, direct mail and open houses. Lead scoring wasn’t a “thing” yet.

First of all, I’d offer that the individuals attending the APSCU annual conference are switched-on thought leaders. My first victim that I cornered to learn more at APSCU was go-getter Lauren Weymouth, vice president for business development at family-owned Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute with seven campuses in the North East. Like many private learning institutions, Ridley-Lowell is focused on in-demand offerings such as health care. One of its infographics on its LinkedIn page concerns “Vocational Skills in High Demand Today."

laurenforblogMy conversation with Weymouth wasn’t about triathlons, although she races, but about student recruitment. She shared that she still feels an affection for old-school open houses to recruit students.

“It’s a positive way to recruit, have attendees meet with instructors and see the campuses,” Weymouth said. “What’s different today is the way that we communicate about open houses. We used to run print ads in the newspaper. Now we use social media such as Facebook.”

Digging deeper, I discovered that Weymouth still runs TV and radio spots as a branding exercise highlighting student’s success stories as testimonials.

“Referrals are still the highest convertor,” Weymouth shared. “No. 2 is relationships that the admissions teams have developed in the community.”

What was noticeably absent from our conversation was an in-depth conversation about lead scoring. Not that Weymouth and her team aren’t overtly and subliminally doing that already, but my takeaway is that the data science surrounding predictive lead scoring is still relatively new in the EDU space. It’s probably going to grow in popularity as private educational institutions have to adjust to compliance realities and a changing student marketplace.

With respect to Weymouth’s leadership activities, she is on the APSCU board and really enjoys the dialog about what’s working and not working with private institutions.

Stay tuned to http://www.smbnation.com for “This isn’t your father’s online university!: Part II” to see analysis on the state of private colleges and universities.

The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference is less than three days away, and presenters and attendees alike are gearing up for the annual event.

This year, Nurture Marketing will provide a standout session on the newly redesigned Microsoft Pinpoint platform, “Winning with words—how to capture customers online and convert them with Pinpoint,” at 3:30 p.m. July 13 in N310H.

Presenter Eric Rabinowitz, Nurture Marketing CEO, will share search ranking criteria and tips for maximum long-term lead capture. Attendees will also hear from Jeff Goldstein, Queue Associates World Wide managing director, who will explain how Pinpoint affected his organization.

Nurture Marketing President Erik Frantzen said Pinpoint performed well in FY2015, giving out more than 94,000 leads, and is projected to provide more leads year-over-year in FY2016.

"We believe more and more traffic will start going to pintpoint than ever before, so it’s important for partners to understand what keywords it’s built upon to improve search," Frantzen said.

Nurture Marketing publishes articles and speaks at conferences nationwide on Pinpoint best practices. It also offers Pinpoint Perfection, a service for businesses of all sizes providing clients with keyword development, content writing and profile monitoring from a dedicated Nurture Marketing team.

For more information about Nurture Marketing’s Pinpoint Perfection service, visit the Nurture Marketing site. WPC session details are available here.

Continuum, the channel-exclusive provider of fully-integrated managed IT services solutions announced Wednesday it launched MSPedia, a collection of articles relevant to managed IT services, including remote monitoring and management, network operations centers and mobile device management. continuum

“As the industry continues to change and grow, we continue our commitment of making a wide variety of cutting-edge, educational resources available to ensure our partners continue to lead the industry,” said Jeanne Hopkins, Continuum senior vice president and CMO. “We have designed MSPedia to be the reference hub for managed IT services so our MSPs have a guide for industry related terms with links to additional information when assisting their clients.”

MSPedia currently includes seven articles containing a topic overview, history, benefits to the technology, external sources and more.

More articles will be added soon to reflect the constantly expanding managed IT services industry. MSPedia is available here.

DigitalOcean raises $83 million in funding

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DigitalOcean, a growing cloud infrastructure designed for developers, announced yesterday it closed a round of Series B funding with $83 million, led by support from Access Industries. 

“We began with a vision to simplify infrastructure that will change how millions of developers build, deploy and scale web applications,” DigitalOcean CEO Ben Uretsky said. “Our investors share our vision, and they’ll be essential partners in our continued growth.”

DigitalOcean designed its infrastructure to support the needs of a variety of developers, including scaling startups. It supports more than 500,000 developers worldwide.

Calyptix Security, a SMB network security and management tools provider, announced yesterday the release of version 3.1.17 of UTM firewall AccessEnforcer, which includes more than 10 updates to security and PCI DSS compliance. calyptix

This update comes ahead of changing industry standards, including a shift to SHA256 as the signature algorithm used for the default SSL certificate on the AccessEnforcer web interface. The VPN service also features improvements designed to close gaps in security.

“The improvements we’ve made to CalyptixVPN really embody our aim with AccessEnforcer,” CEO Ben Yarbrough said. “We strive to help IT providers and their clients enhance network security and save time, and that’s exactly what these changes do.”

AccessEnforcer devices will automatically update to version 3.1.17 in the coming weeks.

MSFT hires one, fires 7,800 = 7,799 Net

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Welcome to Christmas in July. It’s like clockwork: With the start of Fiscal 2016, heaps of Microsoft minions have been axed. Early today, Microsoft announced 7,800 layoffs worldwide, primarily related to the Nokia mobile phone business. It makes sense, as the new CEO Satya Nadella found Ballmer’s legacy telecom tattoo to be repugnant and outside his vision for a new Microsoft. Believe it or not – I support Microsoft’s right-sizing strategy as it’s still too top heavy with people running around having meetings to plan for more meetings. Throw in the new efficiencies associated with cloud computing and you can anticipate additional layoffs in the future. I’m attending the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference next week in Orlando and I’ll report on this topic again including who’s been saved by a lifeline and who’s out.

melanie gass msftRight: Melanie Gass having fun as a lead presenter on our Office 365 Tour this past winter and spring. We'll miss her on our fall tour circuit!

The facts are:

  • In July 2014, Microsoft started laying off 18,000 people with the bulk from the Nokia phone business.
  • Today, Microsoft announced it is cutting 7,800 more jobs.
  • Microsoft is taking an $8 billion charge against earnings.
  • Microsoft’s $8 billion charge exceeds the purchase price of the Nokia acquisition, which was just over $7 billion.
  • In early trading in the NASDAQ today, Microsoft is UP a fraction with heavy volume.
  • In fact, Microsoft is the lone gainer as Dow industrials sustain a 200+ point decline
  • I recommend this thoughtful coverage from GeekWire, found here.

One bit of good news this week is the hiring of Melanie “Microsoft Princess” Gass in the US SMB business group as Sr. Business Development Mgr - National Strategic Influencers, MCC . She will carry the Microsoft Community Connections (MCC) torch. I’m an active MCCer hosting more than 25 MCC events annually. Think of Melanie as one of us working for them. In her now prior life, Melanie owned and operated CenterPoint Solutions in the New York City-area. A civic leader, she was recognized as a leading MCCer and an award-winning partner. Undeniably, she’ll do fine and we look forward to her representing our best interests.

What’s interesting about the Gass hire is that I can count on one hand the number of leading partners Microsoft has brought in-house to, well, talk to partners. By my guestimate, this first happened about 15 years ago when Microsoft hired Eric Ligman in its Chicago office. Later, he relocated to Redmond and today he is Microsoft Senior Sales Excellent Manager. That was followed by the hiring of Dr. Thomas Shinder who ran the isaserver.org community site. Today, he is in-house as a Program Manager Azure Security Engineering inside Microsoft. Microsoft typically hires for a different resume than Ligman, Shinder and Gass have. I’ve worked with countless traditional MBAs from Kellogg School who are intellectually fantastic but lack the street cred. In fact, years ago a friend inside Microsoft told me that they shy away from hiring outsiders such as active Microsoft Partners because of a perceived goodness of fit problem.

So think of the Gass hire as one small step for Microsoft, one large step for the SMB IT Pro community.