SMB Nation Blog

Small business IT and technology news for the SMB channel VAR, MSP, and IT professional.

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Attend "Myth busters: Debunking the myths of DaaS and its providers,"  and you'll be able to definitively say, "I ain't afraid of no DaaS."

Companies worldwide have deployed Desktop-as-a-Service, supporting employees with a simple, secure and highly-accessible workspace solution. 

Though it's a simple way to enhance productivity for employees, confusion still surrounds DaaS, especially surrounding what it includes, how it's deployed, and how MSPs, VARS and telecos can add DaaS to their product line as a very profitable part of their business. 

SMB Nation will present "Myth Busters" from 10-11 a.m. Sept. 10 in a live webinar, joined by Scott Markley, nGenx channel sales ngenxexecutive. nGenx continues to be a leader and pioneer in DaaS, and Markley will share his extensive industry experience to bust the biggest myths surrounding DaaS and show you how your business can profitably expand into the cloud.

Learn more about the webinar and register here.

Founded just two years ago, My Digital Shield doesn't take baby steps, but rather leaps and bounds with its Security-as-a-Service solutions for small businesses. my digital shield

MDS announced yesterday it was voted and awarded “Best New Product” at the ASCII Success Summit in Boston, Mass., recognizing the innovation and affordability of MDS’ cybersecurity solution.

“We are honored to have been selected by ASCII Boston attendees as the ‘Best New Product’ award recipient,” said Andrew Bagrin, founder and CEO of My Digital Shield. “We are thrilled to have the ongoing support from our partners and the channel community and are committed to accelerating the continued expansion of MDS’ affordable cyber security solution.”

MDS supports MSPs and SMBs across various industries, including retail, hospitality and professional services.

IBM extends Blue Box Cloud availability

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Private, OpenStack-based clouds received a boost yesterday from IBM, which announced Blue Blox Cloud is now available in global IBM cloud data centers running SoftLayer infrastructure. IBM logo1

Blue Box, a private-cloud-as-a-service solution acquired in June, is now fully integrated into its OpenStack portfolio as an open-source private cloud and demonstrates IBM’s ongoing support of OpenStack.

“I’ve been impressed by the way the IBM and Blue Box engineering teams have collaborated to quickly bring Blue Box Cloud to a worldwide infrastructure platform,” said Jesse Proudman, CTO at Blue Box, an IBM Company. “Today, we’ve taken a big step toward our goal of delivering private clouds to customers anywhere in the world—and we’re offering deployment timelines that are unheard of within traditional private cloud.”

The Blue Box solution is designed to simplify and bring consistency across cloud types, with a focus on combining the benefits of private and public clouds to support private cloud users.

It’s better than a back-to-school sale on crayons and composition notebooks—disaster recovery and backup solution provider StorageCraft will continue to offer a significant discount on several ShadowProtect solutions in response to ongoing support from users and partners. storagecraft

StorageCraft announced today it is extending a 30 percent discount offer through Sept. 30 to partners and non-partners on virtual licenses, packs and bundles for its ShadowProtect and ShadowProtect SPX software purchased through StorageCraft and its distributor partners.

“The promotion has proved to be popular as IT professionals around the world have taken advantage of the opportunity to protect access to their data and systems with one of the most-trusted backup and disaster recovery solutions on the market,” said Mike Kunz, StorageCraft’s vice president of worldwide sales.

The ShadowProtect family creates backup images of Windows and Linux virtual machines, with recovery available minutes after a disaster, according to StorageCraft.

Those interested in learning more about StorageCraft and its solutions in-person can visit booth 2240 at VMworld Aug. 30 to Sept. 3.

AvePoint updates Azure-based SaaS platform for O365

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AvePoint announced yesterday immediate general availability of a new version of AvePoint Online Services, a 100 percent Azure-based Software-as-a-Service platform for Office 365 designed to simplify the transition to O365 and Azure.

AvePoint Online Services integrates with Azure Active Directory and SQL Azure Data Base, and provides IT pros simplified platform access with tools to scale storage for O365 reporting.

“One of the major benefits of the cloud is simplifying IT operations to focus more on the needs of business users,” said George Petrou, Chief Technical Officer, AvePoint. “With the latest release of AvePoint Online Services, administrators can easily access and scale the tools they need for Office 365 management while boosting user productivity and ensuring organizational governance policies are met through automated service requests and insights available within the SharePoint Online interface.”

More information, including testimonials and the link to a free trial, are available here.

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.

SolarWinds N-able, a RMM and service automation software provider, announced yesterday the upcoming release of its IT service management platform for MSPs serving small and midsized businesses.

MSP Manager, available this September, is designed to increase efficiency and profitability for MSPs, with features including centralized customer knowledge management, mobile applications, integrated billing and a customer portal.

“One of the toughest challenges facing small and medium-sized IT service businesses is profitably growing revenues while acquiring new customers,” said JP Jauvin, General Manager, SolarWinds N-able. “Many IT service professionals are either using manual processes or complex software tools to manage the business, but what they really need is a cloud-based IT service management software platform that is simple, affordable and easy to manage.”

Pricing details and partnership information are available from SolarWinds N-able.

 By Pete Engler, channel marketing manager, Digium

The end of summer means most schools are heading back into session, which also signals the perfect time to think about the value of continuing education and training programs within your business. It’s not uncommon to hear kids complaining about having to go back to school, or questioning the real-world applications of what’s being taught in the classroom. As adults, we also tend to overlook or forget the benefits of a structured learning program, long after those school doors have shut behind us for the last time. Yet, continuing education should reach far into the workplace for the lifetime of our careers, particularly in our quickly evolving, technology-filled world. Ongoing training programs are especially beneficial to a value-added reseller (VAR). digium

For VARs in the technology sector, the importance of continually educating and training employees can make a significant difference in selling, installing and supporting your customers’ solutions. This customer-centric approach also plays a tremendous role in managing and improving your margin and profit. Investing in and completing technical certifications to become experts in the vendors’ solutions you sell may require an upfront cost, but it is well worth it – you should see a significant return on investment when it comes to training.

Having product experts on your technical staff acting as subject matter experts allows you to have a much more efficient and effective process when it comes to supporting customers. Additionally, once you have a set of employees certified on a vendor’s solutions, those employees can then use the training resources provided by that solution vendor to set up an internal training process for the rest of your organization, helping ensure that all of your employees are knowledgeable and able to support your customers. A well-trained staff goes a long way in supporting and protecting the lifetime value of a customer. After all, customers can lose confidence in their VAR if they do not see them as true experts in the solutions they offer.


As part of establishing an internal training process for your organization, you need to start by training the entire sales team. This includes educating your sales and sales support staff, the sales engineers, and the internal and/or external account managers. A sales team must have the ability to articulate the benefits of a product or solution, and how it can solve problems or improve processes for a customer’s specific needs. Not only does the sales process need to match the margin goals of the organization, but the training of the sales team (and training that may be available to the end users) also needs to be aligned with the sales process as it could be the key to closing deals and improving margin.

Once a deal is won, installation of the solution will begin and training will once again have a distinct impact on the process. Successful training of the installation technicians and the administrators that are installing and supporting the solution will factor heavily into your margin and cost reduction, mainly in terms of employee hours required to complete the install. Well-trained techs can cut the installation time significantly and allow more customers to be serviced by your organization. More customers, installs and monthly recurring support revenue will assist in providing the growth path for any successful VAR.

During and after the installation of the solution, the end customer can be trained in order to shift part of the support burden to that customer. This is particularly applicable when it comes to enabling the customer (and their employees) to handle basic tasks and management functions of a vendor’s solution. Sometimes, that may come down to training the customer’s organization on something as simple as knowing how to access solution help features, or training the end customers to use a database or knowledge base to assist in correcting issues on their own. Training the end customer can also provide additional revenue to any sale. Whether the sale of training is vendor provided or consists of training courses built by you as the VAR, there is the possibility of additional revenue by selling that end-user training.

Training is often an overlooked topic or is prioritized much lower compared to other business projects and goals. However, taking the time to ensure your team is well trained to sell and support the customer will bring more profit and margin per signed customer. It also allows you to free up time to increase the number of customers you are able to service, and to offer improved service and support that helps retain those customers for the long term.

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

D&H offers VAR programs for Win10

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Tech distributor D&H Distributing announced today it’s offering new programs, services and training opportunities to support resellers after the recent release of Windows 10. dandh

Its support for VARs includes Windows 10-oriented webcasts and seminars, a Windows 10 Partner Services marketing template and support from D&H’s Microsoft experts on its Solutions Team.

“We’ve had a Windows 10 upgrade path in place for VARs for some time,” said Jeff Davis, senior vice president of sales at D&H Distributing. “We’re looking to support our resellers regarding the new operating system, whether that means helping them educate end-users about new features, identifying the more familiar characteristics of the system, or supporting upgrades and greenfield installations. Based on the responses we’ve gotten to our current trainings, there is huge interest in the channel. We want our VARs to be on top of this transition, reengaging with their end-customers to further entrench themselves as trusted IT providers.”

D&H’s Windows 10 resources are available here.

SaaSMAX announced earlier this week it plans to host the Partner Perspectives August Edition at 10 a.m. PT Aug. 21, a webinar addressing how attendees can build a successful SaaS solution provider practice. saasmax

“The new SaaSMAX Partner Perspectives monthly series is a much needed addition to the Reseller Community via its peer-led forum,” said Clinton Gatewood, webinar host and VP of reseller engagement and matchmaking. “We're bringing together a panel of SaaSMAX Resellers who sell multiple SaaS applications every day and are building up a steady stream of recurring commissions. We had several dozen attendees for our inaugural July webinar, and expect attendance will increase for the August event and each month thereafter.”

Panel discussion topics include client relationships when delivering SaaS applications, managing relationships with SaaS vendors and the impact of selling SaaS on business and employee processes.

Kirk Lesser, president and founder of Renascence IT Consulting, Inc., and Christopher Alghini, principal consultant at Coolhead Teach, join the panel of speakers to share SaaS experiences.

Free registration for the live webinar is available here. SaaSMAX will have a recorded copy of the webinar available at a later time.

AppRiver named to Inc. 5000 for continued growth

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AppRiver announced today Inc. magazine ranked it as No. 4057 in its 34th annual list of the nation’s 5000 fastest-growing private companies. appriver logo emailwebsecurityexperts stacked

This is AppRiver’s ninth year on the list, and it’s one of 19 IT service companies nationwide to be on the list at least nine times.

“The story of this year’s Inc. 5000 is the story of great leadership.  In an incredibly competitive business landscape, it takes something extraordinary to take your company to the top,” said Inc. President and Editor-In-Chief Eric Schurenberg. “You have to remember that the average company on the Inc. 5000 grew nearly six-fold since 2012. Business owners don’t achieve that kind of success by accident."

AppRiver grew 71 percent during the last three years and currently protects 47,000 businesses worldwide with email messaging and web security.

The full Inc. 5000 list is available here.

AlienVault closes financing round after record year

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Unified Security Management provider AlienVault announced today it closed a $52 million Series E funding round, which brings its total funding raised to $116, with investments from Institutional Venture Partners, Trident Capital and more. alienvault

The funds raised are set to help AlienVault scale its global sales and marketing programs and invest in product innovation for its USM platform and Open Threat Exchange, its open threat intelligence community.

“With today’s rapidly changing threat landscape, technology alone is not enough in the battle against cybercrime.  At AlienVault, we unify the security products, intelligence and community which enable all organizations – regardless of size – to quickly detect and respond to today’s threats,” said Barmak Meftah, president and CEO of AlienVault. “This round of funding will allow us to make the investments needed to rapidly expand our reach into this large market opportunity.”

AlienVault recorded strong progress throughout the last year, with a 75 percent increase in new customer growth and more than 65 percent bookings growth year over year. It was also named to the Visionary quadrant of the 2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for SIEM.

OpenStack-powered Platform9 announced today it created a simplified approach to self-service private clouds for VMware customers through Platform9 Managed OpenStack for VMware vSphere environments. platform9

Platform9 now fully supports VMware vSphere environments through a VMware specific virtual appliance available to integrate OpenStack controller services with vSphere resources.

“Platform9’s mission is to make private clouds easy to deploy and manage for the enterprise. By fully supporting VMware vSphere, we are enabling every VMware customer to instantly derive greater value and infrastructure agility from existing virtualized infrastructure,” said Sirish Raghuram, co-founder and CEO of Platform9. “Customers no longer need to choose between the world’s leading private cloud platform (OpenStack) and the world’s leading virtualization platform (VMware vSphere): Platform9 Managed OpenStack is 100% interoperable with VMware vSphere, allowing customers to integrate OpenStack and vSphere seamlessly. Developers can have self-service provisioning using OpenStack while at the same time, IT Operations manages the underlying infrastructure using vSphere.”

More information, including availability and pricing, are available here.

Grant Thompson, a founding partner at Bainbridge Island, Wash.-based MG Group, announced today to the SMB community he started a GoFundMe campaign to support funeral and burial costs for Edith Grace, Thompson’s newborn niece. gofundme

Edith Grace was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a chromosomal condition that can result in early death of an infant, according to WebMD. She was born July 31 and died August 12, leaving behind both moments of grief and memories of joy.

Forty supporters helped Thompson meet his initial fundraising goal of $5,000, but every dollar helps to further offset costs to the family. Thompson added he hopes supporters will envelope the family in prayer.

Those wanting to provide the family with financial and spiritual support can visit the “Edith Grace Memorial Fund” here.

Channel partners are empowered to take control of Office 365 subscriptions through the Microsoft Advisor to Microsoft Channel Solution Provider service plan, which Ingram Micro announced today is now available in 13 countries worldwide. 

The program allows channel partners to convert O365 Advisor subscriptions to the CSP program through Ingram Micro’s Cloud Marketplace, transferring control from the end-user to the channel partner. ingrammicro

“Ingram Micro remains fully aligned with Microsoft to drive channel sales for Microsoft Cloud Solutions,” said Nimesh Dave, executive vice president, global cloud, Ingram Micro. “As the first tier-2 partner to automate the conversion of Microsoft Office 365 Advisor subscriptions to CSP through a single portal, we are excited to deliver a service plan that accelerates the transition and the adoption of CSP.”

Channel partner control of O365 pricing, billing and support will lead to greater profits and retention for the partner, while providing simplicity and stability to the client, according to Ingram Micro.

Avnet dedicates AXIOM issue to IoT

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An ecosystem is developing around IoT, one of the industry’s most important emerging technologies, and Avnet announced today it released an issue of AXIOM magazine dedicated to IoT hot topics. avnet

Key feature stories provide a wide view of IoT, covering middleware, wearable electronics, cyber security, cloud services and more.

“The connection of machines and everyday objects to the Internet continues to change our world and has become a driver for innovation across so many industry sectors,” said Ed Smith, president, Avnet Electronics Marketing Americas. “With this issue, we are providing readers with a comprehensive look at both the challenges and opportunities for implementing IoT from the edge to the enterprise.”

The full issue of AXIOM is available here.

D&H announces Q1 2016 fiscal results

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The first quarter of fiscal year 2016 is now over for D&H Distributing, which announced today an 8 percent growth year-over-year in sales. dandh

D&H attributes part of its strong gains to SMBs and the Windows Server 2003 EOS, with high sales of servers as organizations transition and double-digit growth in PC and desktop sales, led by the small business reseller channel.

“We’ve spent the year equipping our resellers with cutting-edge products and insights on what trends will bring them the greatest profitability. This has led to larger-scale installations, and more sophisticated projects, and expansion into lucrative verticals. We’re thrilled to see the strategy come to fruition,” said Dan Schwab, co-president of D&H Distributing. “It’s the result of months of dedication, wherein D&H pursues a unique roster of new vendor partners and develops effective programs and training venues in conjunction with its long-term manufacturers. We look forward to enhancing that success, and continuing to invest in our customer base over the rest of our fiscal year.”

The local government and education sectors continue to grow as well, with a focus on the K-12 marketplace.

Cloud|AG announced today ServicePoint365 PRO now provides simplified CRM and project management capabilities for its customers using Office 365.

The solution, an Office 365 SharePoint app, leverages the O365, SharePoint Online and Azure platforms to deliver management capabilities from prospect management to partner management.

“After working with hundreds of Office 365 small and medium-sized customers, we found these companies have a need for simplified CRM and project management functionality but are wary of the cost and complexity associated with most of the point solutions.  We decided to include this capability in ServicePoint365 PRO to make an affordable alternative for Office 365 customer to manage customer relationships and projects” said Michael Ganote, vice president of sales at Cloud|AG.

ServicePoint365 PRO is available by monthly or annual subscriptions. More information and services from Cloud|AG and its partners are available here.

Trend Micro offers Win10 migration protection

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Windows 10 continues to generate buzz industrywide, and channel companies are increasingly offering solutions tailored to new challenges and opportunities of the operating system.

Trend Micro announced yesterday the Trend Micro Complete User Prote ction solution is fully supported on Microsoft Windows 10, providing seamless security for businesses migrating to the new OS.

“As businesses begin to assess and plan their Windows 10 migration, it is essential they keep security top-of-mind, otherwise they risk leaving themselves vulnerable to cyberattacks,” said Kevin Simzer, chief marketing officer, Trend Micro. “This transition provides organizations with a unique opportunity to modernize and refresh their endpoint protection and switch to a security provider with proven solutions that continuously deliver outstanding results.”

The solution is available in SaaS and on-premise deployments, and offers advanced capabilities to users of virtual and physical desktops

Avnet Technology Solutions announced today it celebrated a 10-year business relationship with Juniper Networks that continues to enhance customer connectivity in the EMEA and APAC regions. avnet

For a decade, the companies collaborated to improve IT infrastructure with security, switching and routing solutions in seven countries: Australia, France, Germany, India, Ireland, the Netherlands and the U.K.

“Big data and analytics, cloud computing and mobility are driving an exponential increase in connectivity and security demands, and these trends are expected to define the technology industry for the next decade,” said Patrick Zammit, president, Avnet Technology Solutions, Global. “As a result, security and networking presents one of the greatest growth opportunities for our partners. Avnet’s 10-year relationship with Juniper Networks has given our partners a solid foundation in this market. With Juniper Networks, we will continue to look for new opportunities to build upon our mutual success and help our partners address their customers’ business needs related to security and networking as this market evolves.”

Avnet continues to be dedicated to the alliance, holding more than 250 Juniper Networks sales and technical certifications and winning Juniper Networks’ distributor and marketing awards for countries in EMEA and APAC regions.

Cloud-based software provider Moki announced today the release of MokiTouch 2, an update to its free application for customer facing devices.

“MokiTouch 2 is the only customer facing device application that allows businesses to manage, track and measure customer interaction with devices,” said Tom Karren, CEO and co-founder of Moki. “As retailers and businesses across the board, large and small, experiment with the use of consumer facing devices in their locations, they quickly recognize the potential and need for analytics tools and comprehensive remote management capabilities. The powerful combination of Insights and Total Control enables businesses to dynamically analyze the results of in-store marketing campaigns through MokiTouch 2 – all from one centralized dashboard – enabling them to adjust their content and strategy accordingly.”

The application can be used to create tailored mobile digital experiences on interactive kiosks, digital signage, video kiosks and other shopping devices.

Its design includes SMB-friendly features, such as the ability to function without special network considerations and in low bandwidth scenarios.

Jabra releases UCaaS market projections

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Two words define the Unified Communications as a Service market in the coming decade: exponential growth.

Jabra unveiled late last week an infographic detailing current and forecasting continued growth of the UCaaS market, valued by Markets and Markets at $13.1 billion in 2014. 

Technavio and Wainhouse Research project compound annual growth of the market at more than 20 percent through 2019, with estimates of the market in 2019 at upwards of $20 billion from Market and Market.

For industry professionals and partners hoping to offer UC solutions or services, WebRTC presents a key opportunity as an up-and-coming aspect of UCaaS projected to welcome 2 billion users by 2019, according to research firm Disruptive Analysis.

The infographic is available here.

Harry Brelsford and Patrick Houston will help MSPs, CSPs shorten the sales cycle
SMB Nation Webinar 12-1 p.m. August 13, 2015

Lead generation in the average organization might resemble this: Marketing professionals feed high-quality leads to sales, and sales professionals "sell" into the customer opportunity and close the deal. At the top of the sales process, procuring leads is vital to success.

It’s not always an easy process, as many MSPs and CSPs are not naturally skilled at lead generation. SMB Nation is offering this week's academic webinar, "Using an expert system to generate high-quality leads for MSPs and CSPs," so MSPs and CSPs can discover how to use a newly-launched natural language expert system to acquire leads by lending expertise to answer client questions.

By engaging in routine behavior, providing advice, MSPs and CSPs can accumulate high-quality customer leads to convert to client. The webinar will also give attendees the tools to capitalize on the customer trend of self-research to can shorten the sales cycle dramatically. This is a community endeavor led by Pat Houston, former editor-in-chief at CNET and now on-board at SMB Nation.

This is not a "how to make a million in your sleep" scheme, but rather a sophisticated business model all industry professionals should devote an hour to learning more about.

Attendees will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Follow this link to register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/133643807777623297

In my last installment, I painted the picture about the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities’ (APSCU) annual convention held in Denver, Colo. in early June. I also shared my interview with Lauren Weymouth, vice president of business development at Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute on the East Coast. You can read that here.

This installment speaks towards the observations on the state of private colleges and universities from the perspective of Jim Hutton, publisher of Career Education Review and director at Keiser University

For those of you that don’t recognize his name, suffice it to say he is a well-respected industry veteran, having served as executive chairman of the board and channel CEO for Anthem Education until 2012 and co-founded Education Corporation of America (Virginia College) and served as its CEO until 2006.WP 20150604 12 38 32 Pro

What Hutton suggested was a recurring theme I’ve heard in my journey to understand how learning institutions are recruiting students.

“I concur with others that have expressed that referrals and relationships are still the best customers,” Hutton said.

He fancies himself as an old-school player where too much emphasis is being placed on pay-per-lead and he offers that schools are generally unhappy. Point well taken, but it could well reflect that said schools are in their infancy of implementing effective predictive lead scoring programs.

Shifting the conversation away from leads, Hutton said that schools are engaged in a flight to quality.

“The measurement today is how many graduates there are,” Hutton said.

What was unique about my conversation with Hutton was looking into his role as a publisher. Hutton is now the publisher of Career Education Review, which holds itself as a journal born as a way for school owners to exchange ideas.

Today, the Career Education Review has evolved into the comprehensive source of news, best practices, research and commentary that anyone involved with the career college sector needs and wants. In its own words, the Career Education Review is dedicated to providing top management, owners, investors, sector leaders and suppliers with the in-depth information required to survive and prosper in today's education arena.

Consulting firm Red Level announced yesterday it won two Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards at WPC for its cloud and SMB services and implementations in the Heartland Area. Red Level Networks Infrastructure Solutions

Red Level is a full-service technology consulting firm that provides enterprise-grade solutions to both the enterprise and SMB markets, with more than 100 certifications from technology companies and multiple gold and silver competencies for cloud, hybrid and in-premise solutions.

“The cloud has received plenty of acclaim and attention in the enterprise landscape. Now, small and mid-sized business decision makers are recognizing the value of moving to the cloud. The cloud is more conducive to meeting their IT and business requirements than ever before,” CEO David King says. “We recognized this need early on, and our cloud practice has grown exponentially as a result.”

The company received “Heartland Area Cloud Partner of the Year” and “Heartland Area SMB Influencer Partner of the Year” from a field of more than 3,200 Microsoft partners.