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

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Win10 July Availability Announced

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Coming in ahead of schedule, Microsoft announced general availability (GA) for its highly-anticipated Windows 10 desktop operating system as of July 29, 2015. This is significant, as I had heard Windows 10 was going to release-to-manufacturing (RTM) in July 2015 and that suggested that GA would have been late August or early September.

Here is the flaw in my old-school RTM thinking: In an agile cloud-based world, there is NO manufacturing to worry about. The product will be downloadable for installation on desktops, laptops and tablets July 29. I’m still checking on when Windows Phones will receive Windows 10.

BTC Large

With retail SKUs gone gone gone, there isn’t the whole MRP-based manufacturing cycle to contend with (think about packaging, etc.). July 29 is it for consumers. I’ve been running Windows 10 on a gest machine and it’s a #win, in that it’s not Windows 8 LOL. Much more context surrounds Windows 10 that I can’t go into know, but interested readers can attend one of five independent Windows 10 pilot workshops in June produced by SMB Nation with Onuora Amobi (Windows 10 Update editor) as the lead presenter and subject matter expert. Early today, Onuora broke the news here:

Learn more and sign up for the tour here:

Finally, the small matter of OEMs and devices remains. I’m hearing that it will be 4Q before OEMs such as Lenovo ship devices with Windows 10. That’s fine, as it’s the holiday shopping season and past the summer vacation season. Windows 10 will miss the back to school surges in August and September, but that’s OK in the grand scheme of things. One other positive is that our 13th annual fall conference October 1-3 at Microsoft Redmond will feature Windows 10 as a pillar conversation and should offer OEM device bars available for attendees to play with.

PS – the official Microsoft announcement about Windows 10 and its general availability July 29 can be found here:

CRN Announces 2015 Women of the Channel

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CRN released its 2015 Women of the Channel list honoring 440 women from more than 200 companies across the channel.CRN logo

Each woman was selected for her channel expertise and vision, and some received additional recognition as an “Up and Comer,” “Power 50 Solution Provider” or “Power 100 Vendor.”

Awardees included leaders from Avnet, AppRiver, D&H Distributing and Intel Security. CRN will continue to update information on the Women of the Channel throughout June.

More information on the featured women is available here from CRN.

As part of our independent community ombudsman role at O365nation, we can candidly espouse that Lync was a Vista, no? So keeping with our “invest forward” mantra, join us for peek at what is under the covers with the new Skype for Business.  We will show you how it compares to our old frienime, Lync, and how it breaks the mold from anything seen to date.  But, don’t tune in for that…. You need to tune in to learn how Skype for Business can have a positive impact on your business with proper planning and execution.greg plum2

Registration URL:
Webinar ID: 137-730-939

Time and Date: Thursday, June 4, 2018 at 10:00am Pacific (PST) (GMT-7)

In our academic webinar, we will cover delta improvements including (but not limited to):

  • New look and feel
  • Call from Skype for Business using your desk phone for audio
  • Integration with the Skype directory
  • Call Monitor
  • Rate My Call
  • Quick access to call controls
  • Emoticons

Join unified communications (UC) expert Greg Plum and Harry Brelsford as they bury Lync and grant Office 365 citizenship to Skype for Business. And we’ll answer the proverbial question: Is Microsoft really a telecom player yet?

 Time and Date: Thursday, June 4,2018 at 10:00am Pacific (PST) (GMT-7)

Registration URL:
Webinar ID: 137-730-939

Kindly note that this webinar is possible with the generous support of Ingram Micro!

D&H Technology Show to Include SMB Seminars

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It’s conference time for D&H Distributing in the city of chocolate, Hershey, Pa., as the company prepares for the D&H Mid-Atlantic Summer Technology Show held June 4, 2015.


Two of the six educational seminars at the show will focus on SMBs: Cisco will present “Cisco Mega Trends and How They Affect SMB” at 12 p.m., and Dell will present “Dell SMB: Made for Business, Made for You” at 3:15 p.m.

“We’re proud of the depth of information we’ve been able to deliver at our trade venues over the years. The content and the special exhibits we’ve assembled with our partners has grown, creating a value proposition that is difficult to find in a similar one-day forum, especially without any kind of registration fee,” said Mary Campbell, vice president of marketing at D&H Distributing. “We regard this as an investment in our customers’ development, and as we face issues like the impending server end-of-service date, our trade shows continue to offer crucial tools and opportunities.”

D&H said it expects close to 1,000 resellers to attend the show, with 100 manufacturer partners providing exhibits at the event.

Registration begins at 11:30 a.m., seminars start at 12 p.m., the exhibit floor opens at 3 p.m., and the show closes at 8:30 p.m. Registration online is available here.

Avnet CEO to Present at BAML 2015 Global Technology Conference

Avnet, Inc., a distributor of electronic components, computer products and embedded technology, announced today CEO Rick Hamada is scheduled to present at the BAML 2015 Technology conference in San Francisco, Calif.Avnet Logo

Hamada will speak at 1:20 PDT June 3 at the conference, but his presentation will also be broadcast live over the Internet on Avnet’s Investor Relations page. Avnet advises those who wish to view the presentation to log on to its site before 1:05 p.m. to register for the web broadcast and download any necessary software.

Additional Avnet event information, slide presentations and recent webcasts are available here.

Lenovo Announces Storage Arrays for SMBs

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Lenovo announced today at Lenovo Tech World two soon-to-be-available SAN offerings, the Lenovo Storage S2200 and Storage S3200 storage arrays.

Optimized for small and midsized businesses, Lenovo highlighted attributes of the arrays including simplicity, speed, scalability, affordability and availability.

“Today we are introducing a new Standard for SAN,” said Jay Parker, senior vice president, Lenovo Enterprise Business Group. “The new Lenovo S2200 and S3200 storage offerings highlight our extreme focus on affordable innovation. This further extends Lenovo’s ability to be your one-stop-shop from PCs to DCs.”

Though flash-only systems may remain out of reach financially for SMBs, the Lenovo Storage S3200 combines hybrid configurations and Lenovo’s Intelligent Real-Time Tiering to provide near AFA performance for up to 120,000 IOPS.

Available worldwide this June, other important features of the S2200 and S3200 include SSD read caching, 99.99 percent availability, redundant power and rapid RAID rebuild.

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.">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.

First the end of the story, then the context. Today, GoDaddy has delivered an improved email marketing experience that integrates with its website builder solution in five languages. It’s leveraged its Mad Mimi acquisition, completed just under a year ago, to foster more friendly functionality into its small business portfolio. For example, GoDaddy clients can collect contact information on a form on their website and then populate their email marketing machine to send out newsletters to customers.

GoDaddy used words like seamless, easy-to-use and integrated to describe this less friction-like email marketing experience that puts GoDaddy on par with Constant Contact and MailChimp. I’ll keep an eye on this solution as your SMB ombudsman and report further enhancements in its features and functionality when warranted. In fact, I used the solution a few months ago (before the latest features) and I intend to revisit GoDaddy Email Marketing over the summer for use by SMB Nation and

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Now the back story. In speaking with Steven Aldrich for this blog, I was struck how he exposed the GoDaddy mission “…to radically shift the global economy toward small businesses by empowering people to easily start, confidentially grow and successfully run their own ventures.” It’s the same type of language used by third-world micro-lending NGOs and SMB Nation. Witness our time in the trenches with Microsoft Windows Small Business Server (when we advised Peace Corps on its PeacePacks, SeaLand containers stuffed with technology to the Microsoft Response Point phone system in a time when we believed the world would be a better place if everyone had a phone!).

GoDaddy resembles those remarks with its commitment to a holistic customer experience that makes money for the small business and GoDaddy. It’s a win-win good for you, good for me business approach that, quite frankly, is appreciated in this era of detached anonymous lead scoring as the customer acquisition flavor of the month.

Now the rest of the GoDaddy Email Marketing story.

GoDaddy Email Marketing is easy-to-use, allowing small business customers to create email marketing campaigns without the complicated set-up they might get from other email marketing platforms.

“Consumer expectations are high in today’s always connected world and businesses of all sizes need to engage with customers effectively and professionally. To remain competitive, small businesses must look to email marketing as an effective and inexpensive way to build lasting relationships with customers—and generating new business,” said Steven Aldrich, GoDaddy senior vice president of business applications. “At GoDaddy, we’re constantly working to make the business of business easier for customers. Integrating our products for the most holistic, end-to-end experience possible, is just one step we’re taking to deliver world-class human-scale technology solutions for small businesses.”

A simple, affordable way for small businesses to stay competitive, as Aldrich mentioned, the service was quietly rolled out in March, stemming from the acquisition of Mad Mimi in August 2014. The former Mad Mimi team leveraged its substantial experience serving small business customers with world-class marketing solutions and applied the same level of expertise to GoDaddy Email Marketing.

“Since the Mad Mimi team has become a part of the GoDaddy team, we’ve been able to combine efforts to provide small businesses with the perfect email marketing product,” said Gary Levitt, who founded Mad Mimi and now guides email marketing at GoDaddy. “Having access to GoDaddy’s 13 million customers, most of them small businesses, has allowed us to think more comprehensively about small business email marketing—leading to strategic product integrations and expanded capabilities for customers.”

The GoDaddy Website Builder integration offers a seamless experience for customers who want to collect email addresses on a website and use those contacts to grow their businesses. Customers can simply log in and start using the applications together – one integrated service from one provider. This contrasts the complications and time required of a small business to stitch together products from multiple companies, a process which requires importing and exporting customer lists and making changes to numerous platforms.

With the Website Builder integration, customers can turn on a sign-up form on their websites and instantly begin collecting email addresses from site visitors. The new contact management functionality enables customers to add and edit contacts from within the Website Builder interface. Contacts collected from the sign-up form flow directly into the contact management feature, and when the small business owner is ready, they can simply start sending newsletters by clicking “send newsletter” to begin communicating with their contacts. As a bonus, the integrated email marketing service is free for the first 500 emails sent.

“Email marketing is a proven tactic for small business and one that continues to be heavily used despite the rise of numerous other channels," said Greg Sterling, vice president of strategy and insights at Local Search Association, “yet business owners need to step up the sophistication of their campaigns in the midst of mobile migration, increased complexity and competitive noise in the broader market.”

GoDaddy Email Marketing is available for small businesses in international markets. The product is now offered in 26 countries and five languages: English, Spanish, German, French and Brazilian Portuguese, making it simple for small businesses around the world to engage and retain customers.

Analyst Disclaimer: I do not own stock in GoDaddy, which recently went public with a March 2015 IPO.

eMazzanti CEO Makes Channel Pro SMB Visionary List

IT consultant and MSP eMazzanti Technologies announced today CEO Carl Mazzanti was named to the 2015 ChannelPro-SMB 20/20 Visionaries list of MSPs and SMB Partners.Download PDF

“eMazzanti Technologies has shown great leadership and foresight in bringing emerging network, data security, productivity and POS solutions to SMBs,” said Cecilia Galvin, executive editor, ChannelPro-SMB. “We congratulate Carl Mazzanti on making the inaugural ChannelPro 20/20 Visionaries list for 2015.”

eMazzanti provides a comprehensive IT services offering to SMBs, including network security and monitoring, business continuity and disaster recovery, and cloud productivity solutions.

The company has also been honored as a Microsoft, HP and WatchGuard Partner of the Year and was ranked No. 160 on the 2015 MSPmentor 501, MSPmentor’s list of the top 501 managed service providers.

Twenty honorees represent resellers, MSPs and community leaders from the SMB partner community, and 20 are authorities in managed services, cloud computing, and partner support and education from the vendor, analyst, and consulting communities. A complete list of the 40 honorees will appear in the May print edition of ChannelPro-SMB and online here.

D&H Helps VARs to Outfit the Healthy Office

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It’s no longer just walking to work—some industry companies are now suggesting walking at work to limit physical stagnation.

Computer products and consumer electronics distributor D&H Distributing supports this, and announced it will offer a height-adjustable desk, ergonomic products and fitness-related items to VARs, after continued in-house efforts to encourage a healthy office.

“The World Health Organization recently identified physical inactivity as the fourth largest killer worldwide, superseding even obesity. Such reports are driving companies to promote more dynamic and comfortable postures for their employees over the course of the day,” said Jeff Davis, senior vice president of sales at D&H Distributing. “Our own management acknowledged this, and realized the trend might point to a new sales opportunity for resellers. Much like our ‘green’ initiatives, this campaign can deliver benefits beyond just technology. It can contribute to the wellness of the workforce.”

Innovative’s Winston Sit/Stand Workstation, adopted by some D&H employees through a company initiative, adjusts in height to accommodate sitting and standing attitudes and negate some effects of a seated working environment.

D&H also offers wearable health monitors from Fitbit and Striiv, ergonomically-designed computer accessories from D&H partners including Microsoft, ParcSlope and SIIG, and complementary products such as the Conair heated massage seat cushion.

Resco Mobile CRM, a Microsoft Dynamics CRM mobile client, announced it plans to support Dropbox to provide CRM users with access to Dropbox files anytime through mobile phones and tablets. Dropbox integration introduced to Resco Mobile CRM

“Last year, we introduced the SharePoint integration to our mobile solution for Dynamics CRM,” said CEO Rado Vozár. “Exactly the year after, we decided to add on to the integration with other systems. This time with Dropbox.”

CRM records stored in Dropbox will be available offline through the Resco Mobile CRM app.

Full details on the upcoming release will be available at the conference, held June 8-9 in Vienna, Austria.

Capita announced today it acquired Pervasive Ltd, a solutions provider specializing in mobility managed services, enterprise wireless networks and BYOD solutions.

Pervasive, a VAR for Aruba Networks, recently acquired by HP, has a client base across higher education, health service and local government and will serve as a part of the Capita IT Enterprise Services Technology Solutions division.

“Pervasive has a strong record of providing wireless networks to clients across multiple sectors, offering the agility to respond to changing customer requirements,” said Peter Hands, executive director of Capita IT Enterprise Services. “The addition of Pervasive further enhances the range of services offered by our Technology Solutions division, which already offers clients expertise in information security, networking, unified communications, cabling and data management.”    

Pervasive will become a fifth specialist business unit, focused on mobility while boosting capability within storage, compute and security obtained through Capita’s acquisition of Solid State Solutions and Network Technology Solutions.


We are pleased to announce today we are working with Microsoft and to conduct a pilot preview tour in five U.S. cities during June 2015.

Join us on this webinar as we describe the tour, the Windows 10 opportunity, and answer all your questions.
Please register for An Exclusive Look at Windows 10 May 28, 2015 at 10 a.m. PDT at

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

We want to emphasize the INDEPENDENT nature of this learning opportunity. As an outsider looking in, we will take you behind the curtain, allowing you to discover the “real” Windows 10 in advance of everyone else. Attendance is limited to 50 qualified participants, so sign up immediately!

Sponsored by Microsoft, these events are FREE and will be held at Microsoft locations in New York City, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Redmond and Austin.

Who should attend?
•    Managed Service Providers (MSPs)
•    Partners
•    Consultants
•    IT Pros

What will you discover?
The content is primarily technical in nature. As a BONUS, you will participate in a focus group exercise that will help shape Microsoft’s Windows 10 strategy. This is a rare opportunity to influence a product as a real-world professional.
We will cover the following:
•    Intro to Windows 10 and a Full Overview
•    New Features in Windows 10
•    The Windows 10 Mobile Story
•    The Windows 10 Developer Story
•    Windows 10 Security
•    Universal Applications
•    Cortana
•    Microsoft Edge
•    Continuum for Phones
•    Windows 10 and Office 365 – Success Together
•    Windows 10 for the Internet of Things
•    Deploying Windows 10
and much more…

You will enjoy learning from our expert trainer, Onuora Amobi, the editor at

Where are the events?
Click on the city closest to you to learn more:
•    New York City, New York – June 2, 2015
•    Los Angeles, California – June 9, 2015
•    Fort Lauderdale, Florida – June 23, 2015
•    Redmond, Washington (info coming soon)
•    Austin, Texas (info coming soon)


By Marilyn Carr, sponsored by Ingram Micro and Microsoft

The Evolution of IT Services

IT consulting and integration services and custom application development are core revenue components for most solution providers. Unless they were born in the cloud, IT consultants usually add cloud-related technology and services to their portfolios rather than do a wholesale replacement of their traditional services. This is also in line with the reality that most cloud implementations live in an environment where there is a mix of on-premise, hosted, and IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS technologies.

This IDC Market Spotlight provides some key insights based on IDC's discussions with solution IDCproviders that have built successful cloud revenue streams and have IT services as an important part of their business model. These insights are not intended to be silver bullets but rather points to ponder as you consider the cloud strategy that will work best for your unique business and circumstances.

Strategies for IT Services in the Cloud

There are several ways in which IT consulting and managed services can adapt to take advantage of cloud business opportunities, and there is no doubt that opportunity abounds. In the sections that follow, we describe some of the approaches that solution providers report have been successful.

Be a Cloud Adviser

The cloud has reached a level of maturity where more and more business applications and functions can be comfortably transitioned. But not every aspect of a customer's computing environment is necessarily ready for an optimal deployment in the cloud. For many customers, simply keeping up with the number and nature of cloud options available to them is overwhelming. Solution providers are in a unique position to help customers understand how they may benefit from transitioning their applications or infrastructure to the cloud as well as take advantage of net-new functionality that only the cloud can provide.

Solution providers can play a key role in explaining cloud opportunities and challenges, and translating the technology industry's jargon and buzzwords into business terms that customers understand, perhaps in the form of an initial consulting engagement to develop a strategy for the cloud based on the customer's existing infrastructure and capabilities. One approach is to focus on the near-term ROI and savings benefit of the cloud while also helping map out a long-term strategy to transform and modernize a customer's overall technology position. As one solution provider explained:

"Clients rely on us not only to position the cloud architecture but to validate that it's going to work as described. We have a lot of due diligence to do in making sure that all the failover mechanisms are there and that we account for every possible scenario."

Whether or not you can charge for these initial types of cloud advisory engagements is a key question. Some solution providers can charge a fee, while others assign the cost to the presales effort, knowing the potential value of a long-term recurring revenue customer.

Focus on Iterative Consulting

IDC believes the days of the large, monolithic IT consulting and integration project are numbered, if not already gone. The emergence of cloud and other rapid deployment technologies, coupled with the economic downturn that permanently squeezed budgets, means that most organizations do not have the capacity for or interest in taking on enormous projects. Also consider that line-of-business managers are playing a much larger role in IT investments, and their return-on-technology lens is measured in weeks and not months or years.

Many solution providers are adapting to this changing reality by designing their integrations to be more agile and iterative, delivering smaller "modules" of consulting, which show immediate results, and then moving on to the next logical steps. This gives customers control over project timing and costs and allows them to see the benefit of the first phase before committing to the next phase. IDC has found that in the long term, solution providers can make the same amount of revenue over the lifetime of a customer while defining and executing consulting projects in smaller chunks.

In many cases, cloud solutions serve as the perfect door opener for these deeper engagements because of the ability to start small and build out from there. The ongoing nature of this process, resulting in a number of smaller successful implementations along the way, can lead to a tighter, higher-satisfaction relationship with the customer and uncover a continuous string of opportunities.

Shift the Needle Toward Integration

The very nature of cloud-based and SaaS applications means they are up and running very rapidly and solution providers typically do not need to spend as much time modifying and configuring them. This gives IT consultants an opportunity to focus on higher-value services that ensure a customer's applications work together and communicate efficiently and places integrators in a very favorable position.

Ensuring good communications, and seamless data management, among disparate applications is a top priority for most businesses, and this includes integrations between existing on-premise applications, legacy on-premise applications that are being moved to the cloud, and new cloud-based applications that are introduced into the environment. IDC sees the role of integrating applications, and deciding which applications make sense in which delivery models, taking on greater prominence for many IT consultants and integrators. The requirement for integration also elevates the importance of technical architecture because combining cloud with on-premise solutions may involve heterogeneous technologies.

Be Your Customer's IT Department

While one approach to the cloud is to differentiate yourself by focusing on an industry or a specific business process, another is to stick to providing exceptional IT-focused solutions with a high service level for the right price. Some partners nickname their approach "IT department as a service."

There is a wide continuum of IT support services a solution provider can offer, from fielding ad hoc help desk calls to proactive maintenance and everything in between. Although it has always been a good business model, providing a comprehensive outsourced IT management and support service makes even more sense with the cloud. That's because cloud-based outsourcing involves much less capital investment from and lower operating costs for solution providers than on-premise outsourcing. Solution providers that adopt a cloud-based approach can replace declining or disappearing installation and configuration revenue with SaaS and IaaS solutions.

Many solution providers are already recognizing the potential in building out managed services capabilities. However, that doesn't mean it is too late and that the field will be too crowded to make an impact. There are a number of different approaches and tactics that provide lots of room for differentiation, from providing remote monitoring and management of the client's environment to providing outsourced help desk support, including the configuration and ongoing maintenance (moves, adds, changes, etc.) of applications. As two solution providers noted:

"First, it was cost beneficial to move the customer's business continuity services to the cloud. It is sort of a precursor. Now we're in the process of moving their phone systems to the cloud. This year and next, a lot of our focus is trying to move infrastructure."

"Managed services for us is managing all aspects of an organization's IT infrastructure, whether it be their help desk, their email, their servers, or anything else related to IT. We also offer a service where our president or our vice president becomes their virtual CIO. We help with the customer's vendors and contract relations. We don't make the decisions for them, but we're their adviser if they have any questions."

Managed correctly, this type of relationship can be greatly beneficial in terms of the ability to build long-term relationships with customers that can be continually expanded into new dimensions. In the words of one solution provider:

"One thing about being the IT department is it's a lot easier to go to the customer and say, 'You have to do this project.' In the old model, we had to sell them on it. Now, they know what's going on. They understand. We're a main department in the company. We're telling the other departments, 'If you want to keep growing, you have to do this project.'"

Leverage Remote Delivery

More and more solution providers are figuring out how to execute remote delivery of their IT services, because the less they have to be onsite with the customer, the less expensive it is to deliver the service. Senior engineers can provide oversight for several projects simultaneously rather than being tied up for months on end at a single client. This promotes scalability and also provides a training opportunity for new staff. As two solution providers said:

"The cloud reduces our support costs — which is our No.1 cost — while giving our clients better technology. We can be more remote and mobile while we're providing a higher level of service to our clients. That's from our business perspective. The customer also wins because they get better uptime, scalability, and mobility."

"It's shifted our business model quite dramatically in how our engineers are able to support our clients because we are able to do far more remotely."

For one, staff costs can go down by spreading out the higher-paid technical architects across more clients and using more cost-effective resources to execute on the bulk of the work. In addition, solution providers that are effectively using automation to increase their efficiency can improve their gross profit margins.

A center of excellence "remote delivery center" can be used to cover many different geographies without incurring travel costs. Cloud helps enable highly repeatable engagements, which is key to profitability. Many solution providers are using Microsoft Intune as a key tool in the transition to managed services and remote delivery. The virtually centralized approach also makes it possible to optimize staffing levels and train younger talent on specific repeatable tasks. Plan remote delivery methods with lots of leverage in mind, and plan for exactly how staff will be mentored to perform well in the high-leverage model.

Standardize Your Offerings and Pricing

Many solution providers are becoming proficient at creating and selling ongoing services that fit the recurring revenue model. These services were often previously sold on a one-off or transaction basis. The most obvious examples are around support relationships where a solution provider offers a bundle of support hours for a particular customer for a discounted rate every month. A prepurchase of a bank of monthly hours establishes a commitment to spend a certain amount as well as gives the customer peace of mind that someone will be available when it has a need. A similar scenario that's growing in popularity is for ad hoc professional services or even application development services. These services could help with security or Microsoft SharePoint administration or with workflow design and development. The customer benefits by securing its favorite systems engineer or developer, while the solution provider benefits from a profitable, ongoing revenue stream.

Successful solution providers report that one key to success is the ability to offer a menu of prepackaged offerings that can adapt to various client needs, from a basic level that allows metered consumption of support to a "gold plated," all-encompassing outsourcing and support service. Solution providers pursuing this model engage customers on a subscription or retainer basis to provide both proactive and responsive support for the client's entire IT infrastructure.

Fixed-price services are a great way to go as customers feel better about signing up to a scope and a price that are set. You just have to make sure the scope is clear and all of your underlying costs are known and stable. You also have to prepare for some customers that may not be a good fit for your offering and even politely decline their business and move on to those that are a better fit.

If a customer is going to say "no" in the end, it's better to get to that realization sooner than later. As one solution provider explained:

"We are now doing more and more fixed-price engagements all around SharePoint. Much more off the shelf, much more 'cloud' in its kind of style — its sales style and provisioning. What we do is what we do. We do it really well. And if that doesn't suit you, that's fine."

There is still lots of room for time and materials project work within the context of a cloud/recurring revenue business model. That's because customers will often need strategy advice, process redesign, or migration planning and mitigation. However, if you want to stay true to the business model, you might have to walk away from one-off project work for companies that are not currently annuity customers to avoid reverting to "peak and valley" revenue.

Essential Guidance

A change as significant as cloud always brings a need for readjustment or even reinvention of the way you do business. In terms of IT services, many things can change.

Cloud is prompting a move from extremely customized services to packaged IT service offerings. But don't confuse this with undifferentiated services. It is important to design the services "menu" with a view toward how it will provide both customer value and competitive advantage.

Consultant roles and staffing will need to evolve. In many cases, senior staff will need to interact more with line-of-business staff and have more true "consultative" conversations in the course of delivering services. They will also need to spend more time managing and mentoring highly leveraged delivery resources.

The nature of managed services will change with cloud, but traditional activities are quite compatible with cloud and may in fact be a catalyst. Managed service providers (MSPs) understand ongoing support and recurring revenue, so they will fit into cloud more easily than other types of companies.

However, MSPs should embrace cloud and not worry about how it may cannibalize existing services.

The time is almost upon us: Microsoft will end support and cease to issue security updates for any version of Windows Server 2003 July 14.

The Register will host a how-to webcast June 12 at 11 a.m. BST on coping with and preparing for Windows Server 2003 EoS in anticipation of July 14.

Tony Lock, Freeform Dynamics distinguished analyst, will show viewers where Windows Server 2003s are hiding, and James Walker, Trend Micro solutions consultant, will describe the difficulties of continuing to use Windows Server 2003 and how to create an action plan.

The webinar will also include The Register’s step-by-step practical guide to surviving Windows Server 2003 EoS.

More information and a link to registration are available here. Those who sign up but can't attend will recieve a link via email to view the webcast.

Relayware, a SaaS-based provider of Partnering Automation software, announced earlier this week the addition of the one-millionth partner on its Partner Cloud. It attributed much of its success and recent growth to international expansion and demand from VC-backed SaaS companies.Relayware

Relayware works to extend market reach and accelerate revenue growth without increasing customer acquisition costs.

“The nexus of cloud computing, big data analytics, collaborative working and mobile applications is redefining how companies recruit, enable and motivate their channel partners,” Bob Mann, Chairman and CEO of Relayware, said. “For larger enterprises with established partner programs, it’s enabling them to automate channel marketing, sales, training and operational processes, so they can be more strategic with partners. But what’s really exciting is the recent wave of young, VC-backed SaaS companies that are turning to Relayware as the foundation for their new partner programs that they’re building to scale quickly and drive exponential growth.”

Relayware has doubled its customer base and experienced a 30 percent underlying growth in monthly recurring revenue in the past year. It estimates the indirect channel market is worth $800 million, and expects expansion into manufacturing, energy and telecommunications and increased use of indirect distribution channels to increase market worth to more than $3 billion by 2020.

StreamLink Software, a board and grant management SaaS technology provider, announced today a partnership with nonprofit consulting firm Xanegy as a value-added reseller.

"Xanegy has a history of success selling purpose-built, cloud-based technologies to nonprofits, Native American tribes and government institutions," StreamLink Software CEO Adam Roth said. "Its connections and experience are a welcome addition, as we look to provide transparency and accountability to fund recipients through (StreamLink) AmpliFund."  

AmpliFund, StreamLink Software’s cloud-based grant management solution, provides nonprofit and government agencies with a central hub to track grant dollars and the grant lifecycle.

StreamLink Software said it intends to continue to grow its partner program for grant and board management products and expand into new markets.

Zendesk Releases Q1 Benchmark Report

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Zendesk announced today the release of the Q1 2015 Zendesk Benchmark report, which explores the rise and importance of live chat for customer service. Zendesk Logo

Included in Zendesk’s discussion of live chat are metrics, staffing considerations, quality and customer engagement.

Customer satisfaction globally rose to 95 percent, with significant gains in Colombia, the Philippines and Indonesia. For a third quarter, New Zealand and Belgium are the top two customer satisfaction leaders.

The Benchmark is based on actual customer service and support interactions from more than 25,000 organizations worldwide that chose to contribute. The full report is available for download here.

RapidFire Tools Inc., a provider of non-invasive IT assessment tools, announced today it was recognized at two events serving the MSP and SMB marketplace in April.

RapidFire Tools earned “Best Revenue Model” at the SMB Tech Fest conference and “Best IT Workshop” at The ASCII Group’s Success Summit event in Dallas, marking its third and fourth conference awards.

“The use of our tools helps support MSPs, positioning them as trusted authorities whose IT skills surpass those of the end-user’s current provider by consistently identifying network vulnerabilities,” CEO Mike Mittel said. “This tactic opens the door to new business, creating incremental revenue streams for MSPs and growing their customer bases. We’re honored to see this strategy acknowledged by our partners at not just one conference, but at a growing list of industry events.”

RapidFire Tools is scheduled to exhibit and present “Leveraging Network Assessment to Gain New Customers” at the Autotask Community Live! event and the Chicago ASCII Group Success Summit.

eFolder Announces Partnership with Replibit

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eFolder, a provider of business continuity and cloud file sync solutions, announced today at the Autotask Community Live 2015 tradeshow a partnership with Replibit and availability of eFolder BDR for Replibit, which bundles Replibit software and the eFolder cloud.

The combined solution is an image-based backup and disaster recovery service that routinely captures server backups and replicates the images to the eFolder cloud to provide fast local or offsite recovery.

“eFolder is proud to announce a service that combines Replibit’s chain-free backup and deep backup verification technology with generous amounts of cloud storage, our silent data corruption protection technology, and powerful cloud recovery capabilities,” says Kevin Hoffman, CEO of eFolder. “These combined features uniquely empower channel partners to deliver high assurance, low labor business continuity services for SMB Windows environments.”

eFolder BDR for Replibit is built on a Linux Ubuntu hardened kernel and designed to work in all SMB deployment scenarios.

Axcient Announces New Cloud Offering

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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.

IDC MarketScape Report Names IBM as Leader

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IBM announced yesterday IBM Global Business Services was named a leader in the IDC MarketScape Worldwide Digital Transformation Consulting and System Integration Services 2015 Vendor Assessment.IBM logo1

IDC MarketScape found IBM’s greatest strengths were in future business and offering strategy, and IBM was rated highly in analysis and buyer perceptions for its capability to meet digital transformation project timelines.

"Industries and companies are being radically disrupted by the forces of digital transformation, and the pace of change is greater than any other time in history," said Paul Papas, Global Leader, IBM Interactive Experience. "IBM combines big data and analytics, industry consulting and world-class design to help our clients take an experience driven approach to digital transformation. At IBM, digital is in our DNA, and we are thrilled to be recognized by IDC as a leader for our unmatched digital transformation capabilities."

The IDC MarketScape study evaluated vendors across myriad success factors, including the ability to achieve desired business outcomes and deliver innovation that produces results. 

AppRiver Announces Advanced Security for O365

AppRiver, LLC, an email and web security solution provider, announced it has built services designed to seamlessly integrate with Office 365 and provide enterprise-strength security without sacrificing cloud flexibility and productivity.

Its available layered security options SecureTide Spam and Virus Protection, CipherPost Pro Email Encryption and SecureSurf Web Protection.

“SecureSurf is updated thousands of times a day using global threat intelligence and real-time dynamic malware analysis,” explains Troy Gill, manager of security research, AppRiver.  “It also provides immediate notification of advanced persistent threat activity so that network administrators can locate and quickly remediate affected endpoints.”  

SecureSurf can stand alone, work with AppRiver messaging products and wrap around O365.

o365 logoJoin us for this impactful and informative quarterly briefing hosted by Office 365 Nation (O365nation) that delivers specific news you can use to keep abreast of the Office 365 platform. This webinar is for MSPs, Consultants and Partners.

You will:

  • Hear the latest Office 365 numbers
  • Discover the latest Office 365 chatter and gossip (layoffs in July at MSFT?)
  • Why is Office 365 emerging as a platform
  • Who are the Top 25 Office 365 Influencers in the World and why you should care?
  • Who are the latest ISVs to build Office 365-specific solutions?
  • Question and Answer session

Hosted by O365nation founder Harry Brelsford and includes special guests including one big surprise.

Sign up:

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