Top 10 MSP Tools to win in the Cloud

As a managed service provider, your clients count on you to maintain a high level of organization within your company. A single failure can cost your customers time and money. To reduce the chances of such occurrences, MSP can utilize cloud tools. There are several reasons why cloud-hosted solutions are a better fit in today’s enterprise environment. From business continuity to disaster recovery, cloud tools will help drive efficiency for service providers. Cloud based MSP tools can streamline and automate operations like messaging, task management, customer relationship management and other day to day tasks. Below are cloud tools MSP’s can use to streamline their environment.

Task Management Tools

Its easy for an MSP to be overwhelmed by whats on their plate. In order to respond in an effective manner to anything that comes their way, it is critically important that they properly manage tasks. Keep the team of IT specialists productive and focused on client priorities with cloud-based task management platforms, ideal for remote collaboration.
Asana
Asana is among the favored project management tools available. It seamlessly combines elements of collaboration, file storage, and project management to help manage tasks across a team.
Bitrix24
Bitrix24 takes a more holistic approach by offering a complete suite of management, communication and collaboration tools for the team.

Internal Communication

Proper communication within a team is the only way to guarantee that it will remain a cohesive and productive unit. With cloud based collaboration tools, MSPs can ensure team members remain connected whether they are at the office, on-site with a customer, or on the road for conferences and trade-shows.
Slack
Slack provides real-time messaging, search and archiving for modern teams. Its the ideal tool to make office communication efficient, organized and to the point.
HipChat
HipChat offers native video chat and powerful integrations with a host of other apps such as Asana, Zendesk, Google for work and Atlassian products.

Customer Relationship Management

For managed service providers, its all about the customer. This makes customer relations one of the most crucial aspects of a business. Having a centralized customer management solution makes it easier to maintain impeccable levels of customer service and satisfaction.
Salesforce
By storing information about your clients and interactions with them, receiving notifications and tracking deals, Salesforce CRM enables MSPs to track each client touch-point from the initial outreach to on-boarding to after-sales support to customer satisfaction engagement.
Insightly
Insightly has a modern user-interface, powerful integration, and a generous free plan that is geared towards smaller businesses.

Remote Monitoring

Monitoring their clients environments remotely allows MSPs to spot potential issues and respond swiftly before a ticket is even filed.
BMC TrueSight Pulse
TrueSight offers real-time visibility into the server and cloud infrastructure of your customers. It also provides notifications and alters on infrastructure and application metrics per second.
LogicMonitor
LogicMonitor provides a single intuitive dashboard to monitor all websites, networks, servers and devices. The architecture is easy to setup within a clients IT environment.

Customer Service and Support Management

It is the responsibility of the manged service provider to ensure that customers receive all the support they need. Proper support goes a long way in building customer loyalty, which is priceless to a business. A lot of resources are required to provide high quality customer service. Cloud based tools can help fill that gap.
Zendesk
Zendesk allows MSPs to track, prioritize and solve customer support tickets. Their product suite has been developed to make businesses more scalable, reliable and flexible.
Freshdesk
Freshdesk is built for companies of all sizes. It is currently used by over 80,000 businesses all over the globe to handle service-level-agreements, ticketing and other support issues.

There are several other cloud tools in each category that MSP’s can use to grow their business. The time and money spent finding the right tools will be worth it in the long run because they will help streamline processes within the company and put you on the path towards success in the cloud.

Author: Gabriel Lando
Image courtesy of sirirakphotos at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Tips to Build Lasting Enterprise Customer Relationships

The relationship a managed service provider has with its clients is paramount to its growth and eventual success. Several customers have ceased doing all business with a company after experiencing bad customer service; and once customer relationships are broken, it is nearly impossible to repair. It today’s world, offering impeccable service is just the first step. You have to be able to provide something extra, additional value like personalized service and additional support when required. Offering value that supersedes base product functions and features will not only set you apart from other companies in the MSP market, but also allow you to exceed client expectations. The ancillary value becomes apparent when the MSP’s resources are effectively aligned with managing the customer experience.

According to business consulting firm Customer Centricity, the secret to establishing a healthy relationship with enterprise clients hinges on four organizational groups.

  • An account manager or sales representative – who works hand in hand with the enterprise client to ensure all IT needs, unique or otherwise are promptly being met in a satisfactory manner.
  • Customer support technician – To serve as the point of contact when responding to client’s IT issues.
  • Business manager or decision maker – Whose main focus is controlling the budget and reducing the client’s IT costs.
  • Technical contact or end user – who reaches out to the MSP for technical assistance on behalf of the MSP.

Once these organizational groups have been properly established, the tips below can be used to strengthen customer relationships with enterprise clients.

Be accessible

Most managed service providers are unable to deliver on the promise of 24/7 service. Veteran MSP’s come to realize that round the clock support for their clients is a necessity, since downtime negatively impacts client satisfaction as well as the enterprise relationship. As the demand for 24/7 support in the enterprise rises, MSP who are not capable of meeting this demand are at a disadvantage. Despite not being the most agreeable part of the job, there are ways to make round the clock servicing an organized and profitable endeavor. The first step to round the clock availability is being responsive to your clients and ensuring incidents are promptly resolved.

Using texts and e-mail are ideally not the best way to go about it. Texts are typically subject to the availability of solid network coverage, while emails may end up in Spam, buried under other emails. A better solution is to use smart alert systems. The alert needs to be persistent and should only stop when the recipient acknowledges the alert. Additionally, MSP teams have to work closely together to establish a schedule that equally distributes the workload. After an alert has been responded to and re-mediated, it is important to take re-visit the situation and ensure the alert was appropriately responded to.

Establish value, then maintain it

Customer loyalty should never be taken for granted.

“[loyalty is] when people are willing to turn down a better product or price to continue doing business with you”

 – Simon Sinek

Customer interactions are typically handled as one-off instances. However, if you wish to succeed as an MSP, it’s important to understand the customer experience as a journey with a string of interactions geared towards building loyalty. In order to solidify customer loyalty, an MSP has to charm clients via a series of interactions, both small and large, the eventually lead to a greater overall experience that represents your brand. It all boils down to how you make your clients feel. The only way to gain loyalty is to make an impression on your clients.

Every client is different

As a service provider, you have to constantly think of innovative ways to strengthen your relationship and trust with client’s. One sure way of fostering customer relationships is by ensuring you are consistently having conversations with individual clients about their IT issues and experiences with the service you provide. Historical snapshots of customer experiences are essentially irrelevant. The key to understanding the individual needs of a client lies in collecting real-time feedback, which are then immediately acted upon. Predictive analytics can be employed to anticipate client needs.

Clear, accurate and understandable charges

Pricing remains an interesting and highly debated topic among managed service providers. Due to the radical shift away from break/repair IT services, pricing models have increased in complexity in recent years. MSPs have to affix some level of creativity and flexibility to their pricing model in order to make sure clients understand exactly what their signing up for without having to spend hours on the phone with a sales rep. There is no one-fits-all pricing model or formula that would work for every MSP everywhere. It is up to you to constantly evaluate their pricing and ensure you are on top of industry standards, customer needs, and shifting costs. The pricing model should also make it easy to pay for service upgrades. For more information on pricing models, click here.

Have the right people at each organizational group

A company is only as good as the people who form it. For service providers, the people providing the service are more important that the solution set you provide your clients. Ensure each organizational group is adequately represented with people who want to make it easy for clients to resolve their issues, and personalize the conversations to form a lasting impression and build rapport. Your culture should be a reflection of your commitment to your clients before you can establish a lasting relationship and build a loyal support base.

Author: Gabriel Lando
Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Top 5 MSP Marketing Tips to Grow Leads


Most MSP companies are founded and led by engineers who tend to place more emphasis on their technical skills. So in essence, all MSPs are engineering companies at heart. However, marketing a technology is completely different from offering a service. It’s highly unlikely that most people become engineers because they wish to pick up a career in sales along they way, but marketing is critical to any business’ growth, regardless of the industry its in. Marketing is primarily a numbers game. If you manage to get an x amount of leads through the door, only a portion of them convert to paying clients.

To achieve long term success, MSPs require a growth strategy that transcends the referral base. The not only need a clear picture of the market they wish to serve but also an established process of finding and converting new clients. Tailoring a sales and marketing strategy that calms customers’ fears and creates a relationship based on trust hinges on an MSP’s ability to recognize the specific IT skills they are good at providing. Once that has been identified, a creative strategy and commitment of resources is applied in order to raise awareness of the service.

Ensure your website is impactful

You can never get a second chance to make a good first impression. A company’s website is not only an extension of its core business, but it is also an opportunity to make a lasting first impression on visitors in search of the expertise and services you are capable of providing. In today’s digital world companies have to take into account the vast range of devices potential customers may use to access their site. In order to effectively speak to the target audience, a fair amount of tweaking may be required to get the site to perform well on all search engines. An impactful website should accurately reflect the brand, culture and the unique offerings an MSP provides.

Content

Engaging content is an effective way of attracting targeted website visitors. MSPs should focus on creating content that solves their clients most acute problems. Clients care more about the issues they face than the technology. If implemented properly, with the right process and discipline, a blog can become a valuable strategy for attracting the right kind of visitors. It may take a while for the leads to start rolling in, but once established, you should see an exponential increase in potential clients asking for help. Updating an MSP blog on a regular basis (two to three times every week) with exemplary content, that addresses your client’s problems and questions is a sure way of strengthening your MSP marketing strategy.

SEO

After building an impactful website, SEO (search engine optimization) is the next strategy to put in place in order to boost MSP marketing efforts. If done the right way, SEO can be a game changer. Your service offerings may be the best in the industry but if potential clients can’t find you when browsing the Internet, they’ll never discover you. Investing in a proper SEO strategy is a crucial piece of any marketing strategy in this digital age. Key phrases and keywords are the hallmark of search engine optimization. The are the terms and word potential clients are typing into their search engine to find a solution to their problem. Choosing the right ones can make your business and the managed services you provide easily discoverable.

Social Networking

Social media platforms are an ideal way to get the word out about the quality of service you provide. If properly used, social media can be used as a channel to communicate with potential clients and engage in open discussions with them. Social media also enable clients to put a face to the business; sharing posts about your office culture and the people who form the business goes a long way in establishing a basis of trust, the goes a long way. Invite your entire client base to follow your Facebook and Twitter. Keep them posted about all the cool things you are doing as an MSP, and maybe they’ll share it with their followers. Remember to keep it fun, the idea is to keep them aware of your presence.

Social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are also great tools to not only meet, but also build strong strategic alliances and partnerships. Robust business networks are detrimental to the growth of your business. Outside the online world, you can ensure your MSP business has a voice in the community and industry by attending chamber meetings and conferences, joining an alliance or the Rotary. Jump at every opportunity to meet and engage other business owners.

Foster Leads

The best way to measure your marketing efforts is by growing a list of potential clients. A mailing list is an crucial asset to any business, and using an e-mail list as a source of MSP lead generation is a good way to provide special services, tips, discounts or newsletters to potential client’s. In order for the list to be effective and beneficial to the company, it has to have been built organically. Potential clients should opt in and ensure you provide a simple way to users to unsubscribe. In order to generate the right leads, focus should be placed on the buyers persona, specifically their goals, paint points and behaviors. Fostering a lead should not stop after signing a client. Treating your customer as simply one of many will not bode well for the business. Current clients are also a source of lead generation, through referrals. By creating strong relationships with your existing client base, they are more likely to talk about your business or give positive reviews and testimonials.

 

Author: Gabriel Lando 

Learn more about Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider Program

Less is more

You’ve probably heard ‘less is more’ cliché a million times, and surprisingly, it works, especially in certain aspects of your personal life and business. However, when it comes to the subject of profitability, most professionals would agree that “more is more.” This is the thinking that has led different cloud services providers to participate in the Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP) program.

Not only does the CSP program authorize partners to re-sell Microsoft’s cloud services, like Office 365, in different countries, but it can also create new opportunities to develop and manage a subscription-based, scalable business that enables savings on administrative costs and billing and doubles profit margins, if not more.

This is significant when you consider that, beginning October 2015, profit margin disparity between Microsoft CSP and Advisor program has grown enormously. While the latter offers partners a margin of only 3 percent, the CSP program provides the capabilities to yield higher percentages of almost 16.5 percent, especially if the partner provides a 30-day free CSP trial.

Perhaps this would be better explained with the help of an example:

Suppose you’re part of the MS CSP program. You sell an Office 365 subscription to one of your clients, which results in profit. After a while, the channel firm becomes a partner of the Microsoft CSP program through your organization. The process will be fast and seamless, with no disruption in the service of the customer. However, what will change is the partner’s profit margin for reselling MS Office 365. It will triple!

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, considering the stellar reputation Microsoft has for its partner programs, this opportunity should not be passed up. Still, if you’re interested in knowing more details about the Cloud Solutions Provider program, read below.

Understanding the CSP Program

The main goal of the MS CSP program is to strengthen the relationship between partners and customers and improve partner business opportunities by giving partners involved with the program the capacity to manage the total Microsoft cloud customer lifecycle. The partner is in charge of customer relationship, customer support, and billing for O365.

Any Participation Benefits Available?

In the modern cloud-first world, over 65 percent of customers expect to buy cloud services, like Office 365, from a single source, and 84 percent desire to be involved in a successful relationship with a vendor to trust them as a reliable cloud service provider. The CSP program allows partners to meet customer expectations with a lot more ease and allows them to package their IP through managed and project services to raise profits.

Selling O365 as Part of the CSP Program

Partners transacting in CSP can sell the whole Office 365 portfolio available via the CSP. When a cloud service provider becomes a direct partner, they will be authorized to offer Office 365 service, customer support, and bill customers directly. The company needs a service business model, a customer support infrastructure, the ability to scale, and customer billing and invoicing capabilities. Becoming a direct partner requires commitment and effort. However, if a cloud service provider lacks infrastructure for billing and customer support, they can always connect with an Indirect Provider. This allots more time to spend with their customers, building specialized services and offers. If the partner is interested in improving their business through adding complementary services, they will still be responsible for ensuring the success of customers. However, they should develop a plan that helps customers implement and support their solutions in an effective manner.

Why This Works?

Reselling Office 365 gives the channel partners in Microsoft’s CSP program something they always wanted – greater customer control. Microsoft publishes new APIs that enable partners to integrate Office 365 metering, provisioning, and management into their own systems. Such APIs have already through various iterations for Microsoft to sort out business rules, technical details, and bugs. But they continue to evolve over time as new services get added and functionality is delivered.

Cloud service providers need to make a significant resource commitment to the maintenance and integration that keep these reselling features working smoothly. They will have to figure out the best way to bundle and sell their own services with Office 365. They must then provision and bill carefully for those bundles, without compromising on customer experience.

Potential Business Models

Channel partners can offer system integration, migration, and deployment of Office 365, and they may bundle managed services. Upselling and attaching enhanced security features works well. Devices can be attached with Office 365, and the partner can even offer end-user training and support services. The best thing would be to target customers looking to adopt Cloud solutions.

Additional Benefits

Increased revenue and improved profit margins are not the only advantages that come from reselling Office 365 via the Cloud Solutions Provider program. Any company that is part of the CSP program can provide access to other features to benefit the client. Channel partners can even bundle more Microsoft cloud solutions with other complementary cloud services to businesses of any size. Some solutions on offer include CRM Online, Azure CSP, Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), Automated Email Discovery and Migration Services, and 24 X 7 technical support services for every kind of cloud solution. The CSP programs of some companies let channel partners deliver expanded IT services at a reduced administrative cost. Because of this, channel partners find it easy to foster stronger and long-lasting relationships with their Microsoft customers, while achieving a better bottom line.

 

Rahul Sharma

 

Sources

http://www.ingrammicrocloud.com/2015/11/24/more-than-triple-your-o365-renewal-profits-with-microsoft-csp/

https://vuzion.cloud/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Vuzion-CSP-FAQs.pdf

https://partner.microsoft.com/en-in/cloud-solution-provider/resources

http://blog.odin.com/serviceprovider/2014/7/25/aqt2ezcyipm6lgl7o83jvbpk37lejq#.WP8tNWmGO1s=

https://mepn.azureedge.net/MEPN/Decks/Partner%20Profitability%20with%20CSP%20in%20EDU.pptx

Top 3 cloud Managed Service Providers (MSP) pricing models

Re-curing revenue is the main differentiating factor between managed services and other business models in the IT solutions provide space. IT solutions providers typically pursue a break/fix model, where their services are priced on a material and time basis; for example, billing an hourly rate for repairing their client’s equipment then charging for replacement gear. Providers that perform project work such as computer systems integration and installation are able to charge a fixed price for services and products. In general, conventional IT solutions providers are able to generate revenue on one-time basis from every project they complete because the nature of their business is mainly transactional.

A managed service providers revenue stream has the potential to create a more stable and predictable business base. The prospect of a steady revenue stream is attracting multiple traditional solutions providers, like value-added re-sellers, to the MSP business model. However, it’s not all rainbows and daisies on the other side. An MSP business model demands the adoption of varying performance metrics, infrastructure components, sales compensation plans and technology infrastructure, among other real challenges. Gartner recently predicted the twenty percent of MSPs would fail. The key to succeeding in the space boils down to pricing models.

Know your Offering – Then Price it Accordingly

MSPs typically rationalize their service offerings. In an attempt to seem unique and competitive, they provide clients with highly customized packages. While this may be beneficial to clients, the approach is simply too bespoke and may end up hurting the business in the long-run. The biggest mistake providers make is placing their focus on getting a clients business instead of managing cost and expectations. In the end, clients begin complaining because the provider can’t deliver on their promises or boost their revenue, forcing the MSP to struggle to support their requirements.
Its important for MSPs to understand that the customers themselves are not sure about what they want. The responsibility therefore falls on the provider to develop a workable solution that is both profitable and beneficial to the client. That’s why its crucial to define the cost upfront and provide a package. The moment the customer clearly understands what they are receiving and at what cost, it becomes easier to make a profit. Based on the costs associated with services the business provides, pricing can dramatically vary, and getting it right is dependent on formula-driven, proven, well-researched MSP pricing models, coupled with a carefully curated array of services. The goal of a well established pricing model should not only be to maximize profits but also meet the client’s requirements by understanding how much they are willing to spend. The impact IT services will have on the customer’s business – whether due to competition, regulation or industry type – will play a huge part in their willingness to work with a managed services provider, and should therefore be factored into establishing a good pricing strategy.

I. Per-User

Per-user MSP pricing models share a lot with per-device pricing, with the main difference being that the fixed-price is billed per user on a subscription basis and includes all the devices used by each user. It is extremely attractive to clients because its easy to understand and gives them a predictable IT service cost, which keeps Service Level Agreements (SLA) simplified. The pricing model is ideal for companies who have employees that have to remain connected 24/7 by multiple devices. The account for multiple devices can easily be adjusted, while service delivery remains unchanged.

II. Tiered

This pricing model involves building multiple bundled services or packages with every increasingly more expensive package offering more services to the client. For example, a tier one package may include basic remote and phone support for an entry-level fee while a higher priced second tier package includes on-site visits, on top of the remote and phone support. There are numerous ways an MSP can choose to tier their services. They can differ based on the number of devices or priority of level of support. Organizations with a need for zero downtime may choose higher tiers so that they don’t have to worry about waiting for service desk help. When structuring a tiered model, it is crucial for MSPs to note that too many choices can stall or slow a clients decision; and most clients will automatically opt got the lowest-cost option.

III. A La Carte

A La Carte, which provides flexible customization options that are geared towards optimizing a solution for the client. Most MSPs who use this model resort to marking-up prices in order to achieve a profit margin. As mentioned above, there is trade-off for the freedom this package provides. It is the hardest to sell and the hardest to sustain profitability. Clients are bombarded with a superfluity of options that may or may not be relevant to their specific environment. Writing up a service level agreement for this pricing model may also be unnecessarily time-consuming to both parties.

Another viable MSP pricing model includes monitoring only, which offers a bare minimum approach to managed services. The provider only remotely monitors specific aspects of the customer’s IT infrastructure.


Author: Gabriel Lando

What is Office 365 security score? Why is it important?

Apart from the features described on the Office 365 roadmap, there are some hidden gems which might slip under the radar. One such gem is the Office 365 security score. It uses a set of PowerShell scripts which gather configuration related information from your Office 365 installation. It then evaluates this data against several criteria to calculate a score. This score represents the state of your security and provides recommendations on how it may be improved.

What is ‘security score’?

The core idea of the Office 365 security score is to take all your behavioral and configuration options related to cloud security into one framework. The idea is to enable users to take action in order to achieve improved scores over time. Instead of constructing a model which categorizes the level into low severity, moderate and critical, a scoring model has been created.
After being in preview mode since Aug 2016, Microsoft started calculating the scores for the security settings for commercial customers in Feb 2017. Further, additional advice has been given as to how actions like activating multi-factor authentication can influence the security scores. At least one major insurer has announced that this rating would be taken into account when pricing cybersecurity policies. What is it all about? Why is it important? Read on to find out.

 

Image source: https://support.office.com/

What is Office 365 security score all about?

Office 365 security score is an analytics tool that will help you understand what actions you have taken in order to reduce the risk faced by your data in Office 365, and show you what can be done to further reduce that risk. You can conceive of it as being a risk score or a credit score type number for security.
Up until Feb 2017, the number of parameters that was mentioned amounted to 27 security configurations and behaviors impacting data security in an entity’s Office 365 environment. After Feb 2017, users are now graded for security on as many as 77 factors. These 77 controls represent all the possible behaviors and security configurations that customers can adopt in order to reduce the risk to their Office 365 data. Based on the extent to which each of the controls reduced a set of risks, each control is awarded some points.

What are the applications?

Microsoft suggests 4 applications for the security score data:
• Monitor and report the score in reporting tools downstream
• Track the security configuration baseline
• Data integration into cybersecurity insurance or compliance applications’
• For integration into CASB or SIEM in order to drive a multi-cloud or hybrid framework used for security analytics
What the security score does is that it permits administrators to compare their security levels with those of 85 million business customers of Office 365.

What does Office 365 security score express?

The score is presented as a dashboard and multiple runs of the tool are presented by the Score Viewer for historical purposes. Each criterion that is evaluated is listed as a FIX IT or as a GOOD result, with the FIX IT result being linked into a general configuration area.
The Secure score is not an absolute measure of the probability of your system being breached. All it indicates is the extent you have adopted controls that can reduce the risk of being breached. Secure score is not a guarantee in many manner. The denominator of the score is not any kind of a goal to achieve. The reason is that many of the controls are quite aggressive and will have a deleterious effect on your users productivity. It’s all about putting in the controls that maintain a nice balance between security and user productivity.
The Score summary expresses the actual score value. The Risk Assessment section shows the top threats you face for your particular set of behaviors and configurations.
The Office 365 average secure score is calculated from the secure scores of all the customers. You can use this score as a frame of comparison to see how you fare against the average.
The modeler panel shows you recommendations for what actions you can take and the target score you can achieve if you implement all those recommendations. The action pane shows you a description of the suggested control, an explanation for why it would be an effective risk mitigation and what was observed about your configuration. The third panel in this section is a pane fly out which explains exactly what is going to be changed and what will be the effect of that on the users. The Launch now link will permit you to make the appropriate change from the same panel.
The Score Analyzer panel shows the variation of your secure score over time in the form of a line graph.


Image source: https://support.office.com/

How can it be accessed and what system installation does it require?

The Secure Score tool can be accessed from the URL: https://o365securescore.azurewebsites.net. In its current form, the tool needs you to have PowerShell modules for several components installed. So, you will basically need the PowerShell modules for each of the following:
• Azure RMS
• Azure AD
• Azure
• Skype for Business
• SharePoint online
If you already have these installed on your machine, you will not be prompted. Otherwise, the score and the scripts will point you to the respective download links.
Once the prerequisites are installed, the Secure score collector will be downloaded, which is nothing but a few PowerShell modules and scripts. While running the collector, there are a few points where you are questioned if some activities are illicit or weird. When the scripts are running, you can easily notice how the tool is early in development, the output is a bit raw and the logs include some statements like “Everything is square”. Some of the checks such as the mailbox checks look like they would take a large amount of time in a large environment. Once data collection is complete, it is uploaded to the Microsoft website for further analysis.

Author: Rahul Sharma

Sources
http://mspmentor.net/cloud-computing/microsoft-launches-security-score-office-365
https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/office365security/using-the-office-365-secure-score-api/
https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/office365security/new-security-analytics-service-finding-and-fixing-risk-in-office-365/

Three Ways to Increase Your Office 365 Sales Revenue

Managed services providers (MSPs) have always played a prominent role in the information technology (IT) industry. They have managed and taken responsibility for offering a defined set of services to clients, either proactively or as they see it. However, innovations in big data, social media, and mobile applications have led private cloud use to rise from 63 percent to 72 percent, while hybrid cloud use increased from 58 percent to 67 percent. This has driven MSPs to transform into managed application and cloud services.

As various components of their clients’ IT infrastructure migrate to the cloud, they have had no choice but to provide their own cloud services, resell cloud capabilities, and manage hybrid cloud environments. The sale of cloud-based IT solutions continues to be a major challenge for various MSPs, and this has become a cause for concern, as the very idea of replacing sizeable projects with a few hundred dollars a month in MS Office 365 subscription revenue makes no sense. But it is possible for an MSP to increase their Office 365 sales revenue; all that’s required is a change in perspective and the three tips mentioned below.

Help in Migration – On-premise to Cloud

Most companies are used to running all their collaborations and workflow in an on-premise arrangement. However, because of the changing IT industry, companies realize they could scale quicker and more efficiently if they moved to the cloud with MS Office 365. They found they had neglected major IT upgrades as long as they stuck to the old infrastructure and were now trying to catch up. So, after shifting to cloud, they require someone capable of undertaking a mid-scale, challenging migration with no disruption in business activities. They need an IT services company that can handle every aspect from planning to training, implementation to support.

Hybrid migration is the best option in this case, providing users with a unified, seamless appearance whether operating on-premise or in the cloud. IT needs to adapt on the go with close to zero disruption to the business. Users must be moved carefully to Office 365 in the cloud. One of the major benefits of moving to Office 365 is financial savings. Not only does moving to the cloud eliminate storage, along with the associated maintenance and administrative costs, it also means the company can avoid expensive upgrades to its storage architecture to keep pace with the growth.

Microsoft Office 365 ensures companies no longer must worry about any future migrations or spend money on the most advanced software. Then, updates are implemented automatically and seamlessly. An Office 365 license enables BYOD (bring your own device) users to install the program on many computers, smartphones, and tablets – a major benefit to users.

Migrating to the cloud offered each user of the company access to Office 365 apps and documents. Due to the Office 365 interface being relatively consistent, irrespective of the device being used, employees required no training for various devices. This helped save money on training. Apart from cloud-powered email, spreadsheet applications, and word processing, the MS Office 365 suite comprises collaboration, online storage, video conferencing, instant message, and collaboration. What’s great about Office 365 is it is always improving. Usually, companies must pay for all upgrades, but thanks to Microsoft, updates occur automatically.

Become part of Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider Program

Before a managed services provider can sell MS Office 365, it must determine which Microsoft program must be employed. Numerous value-added distributors and master cloud service providers advise channel partners on using the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. The main benefits of this program over other partner licensing models include customer relationship ownership retention and higher commissions.
Unlike the other Office 365 programs that need partners to turn over the sale to Microsoft, such as support and billing, the MS CSP program allows channel partners to hold on to the ownership of their customer relationships. This means it’s a lot simpler to bundle with professional services, like helpdesk support.
As per the present Microsoft Advisor program, channel partners can earn only 3 percent margins on Office 365 subscriptions. The CSP program offers partners with margins 11 percent or higher. Master cloud service providers and distributors sometimes add economic incentives to lure channel partners to sign up with them, which raises the first year CSP subscription commission to over 16 percent.

Offer value added service – Backup

While moving to the cloud, data associated with MS Word, Excel, Outlook, SharePoint, PowerPoint, and Skype are all synced in Microsoft’s cloud. However, this does not mean you can do away with a proper BDR strategy for your Office 365 data and apps. When value-added services are put in place around Office 365, it automatically increases revenue, while adding an extra layer of protection and security. This keeps customers’ data and apps safe during the move to the cloud. But Microsoft’s backup and recovery services might not always align with the company’s customer service level agreements (SLAs), data protection and security requirements, or business needs.
The best way to prevent cloud offerings from cutting into the company’s BDR margins is to avoid considering BDR as a task-based IT function. Rather, it should be viewed as a strategic business process. When customers are told about higher-level business ideas, like business continuity, RTO (recovery time objective), and RPO (recovery point objective), it will take care of many objections that could arise while backing up cloud services. Broadening the discussion from backup to superior solutions, business strategies, and services makes it easier to influence higher-level decision markers for better margins.

Final Thoughts

Microsoft Office 365 cannot be considered a passing fad; not only are they rising in importance, but they are slowly becoming the new standard for businesses. Most businesses now have a part of their IT on-premise and a portion in the cloud, and they require the two environments to work as one platform. A lot of skill and complexity are needed to achieve this outcome, which indicates the channel is going nowhere for a long time.

Author: Rahul Sharma

Sources:

http://mspmentor.net/blog/2-ways-boost-your-office-365-sales-revenue

http://affiliatedtechno.com/keep-up-with-growth-by-moving-to-the-cloud-with-microsoft-office-365/

https://www.getfilecloud.com/blog/2017/04/mcsp-the-future-of-managed-service-providers-msp/#.WP7iGWmGO1t

 

How to Pitch Managed Service Providers’ (MSPs) Role in Office 365

The market appetite for cloud based solutions is high. It is still important to pitch yourself properly if you want to make your mark as an MSP for a cloud based solution like Office 365. Marketing is a critical part of your success as an MSP for Office 365.

Most MSPs state they are getting clients mostly word of mouth. However, given the dominant presence of eCommerce, most consumers in the B2B space are moving towards online queries, web resources, and internet searches to find services. So how do you pitch yourself properly as an MSP? Here are some tips:

Why is an online presence important?

According to a study by Google, about 89% of all B2B buyers tap the internet for doing any research and gathering background information. So, the bottom line is it’s highly likely that your prospects are looking online, whether they are looking for a provider or for new services. It should be a top priority to generate new leads and establish an online presence. Even if you are not intending to build any new relationships and get new clients, you should still spend enough time upselling to and nurturing your client base.

Team up with the right provider

Getting and converting leads is no joke. You need tools like cost estimators, product comparisons, and online banner ads to position your offer in the right space in the market and be able to convince prospects about your credentials. That’s why it is important to tie up with a partner that can provide such tools and help you talk the right language with customers.

Come up with your unique value proposition

It is important to focus on coming up with your unique value proposition first when trying to build your brand identity. It is the most fundamental foundation of all your marketing efforts. The unique value proposition is a clear statement that mentions all the benefits a client can gain by working with you. It should illustrate how you or your product solves business problems. It is statement made as a claim and an introduction, not a slogan. You need to build this statement by thinking about how a client sees you as a business partner.
A statement like “Because we are good”, “We get it done for you” would not be a good enough value proposition. Consider something like what Skype has as their UVP (Unique value proposition)- “Wherever you are, wherever they are – Skype keeps you together”, a good UVP.

Choose a target vertical

A philosophy of targeting anyone may not work. Instead, pick a target vertical. By picking a target vertical, you can ensure your value proposition is focused and received clearly by the prospects. For instance, consider you want to target the Information and Media sector. This focus will be reflected in your case studies, marketing, communications, and UVP. It will also be easier for you to be perceived as an expert if you are focusing on one sector.

Identify the problems faced by your clients

The ability to ask good questions and listen to the answers differentiates a masterful salesperson from one who is not. There is something called the SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff) approach, which can help you ask the right questions. The way you build your questions is a very important factor in getting quality answers. The SPIN approach is composed of 4 types of questions asked in a particular order.

  • Situation questions

This refers to questions asked to know your prospect’s current situation. Here, you ask for facts and background to decide the potential problems that can be explored. These are some questions you can try:

  • Please tell me about your current solution for email and collaboration.
  • Indicate your satisfaction level with the current solution.
  • How do you estimate the equivalent value of employee productivity?
  • Do the employees at your organization work on mobile devices and remotely?
  • Please provide more details on these answers.
  • Problem questions

Here, you ask about the difficulties and problems faced by the client and her issues and needs. Questions of this type can help you identify and understand the solutions and alternatives you can offer.

  • How much trouble do you have handling the workload associated with the solution?
  • How worried are you about exceeding or reaching your current capacity?
  • How much time have your employees or you lost due to availability issues? Please characteristic as High, Medium, or Low.
  • Do you believe information security related issues are a bottleneck to your company’s adoption of cloud based solutions for collaboration and email?
  • Are you wasting considerable time trying to find the right version and the right document?
  • Implication questions

These are the questions where you ask about effects, consequences, and implications.

  • As far as you can estimate, how much time is being lost from the employees’ point of view due to inefficient business processes?
  • Do you understand how valuable the files related to your employees are?
  • Would it be helpful to automate and centralize the business processes into one location from where they would be accessible anywhere?
  • Would you like to reduce the time and costs associated with your email system and make the system more reliable?
  • Would your business be more productive if you could provide secure access to all your employees, so they could work wherever they want and whenever they want?
  • Would it be a useful capability for employees to work at the same time on the same file from two locations?

Author: Rahul Sharma

Image Courtesy: nokhoog_buchachon , freedigitalphotos.net

Sources

http://info.sherweb.com/Office-365-partner-profit-ebook.html

http://mspmentor.net/blog/10-office-365-sites-every-msp-should-bookmark

http://mspmentor.net/managed-services/032614/dont-sell-microsoft-office-365-sell-your-brand

http://blog.kaseya.com/blog/2016/07/12/how-msps-can-make-office-365-management-easy/

Ultimate Guide for MSPs to Learn More About Reselling Office 365

There has been a veritable revolution with the arrival of cloud computing. Although most businesses now see the value add from relying in cloud based solutions, many companies need some level of value-selling before they can move to Office 365. While MSPs traditionally have been installing Exchange servers, reselling hardware, and helping to manage those environments, there is a great new opportunity to sell Office 365. Historically, many MSPs have been reselling collaboration services, like Exchange and hosted email, meaning the jump to reselling Office 365 is easy to make.

How to do resell Office 365 successfully?

Package your offers

The first step you need to take is to choose the partner program for reselling Office 365. Overall, there are three programs available – Advisor, Open, and CSP (Cloud solution provider). It is highly recommended to choose the CSP program, as it represents the most rapidly growing and profitable way to resell Office 365. The CSP program permits you to sell Microsoft solutions with your own services and offerings. Under this program, complete ownership of the customer relationship lies with you, in terms of management, provisioning, direct billing, and support. The features offered by the CSP program are as follows:

  • Partner-controlled margins
  • Monthly billing flexibility
  • One stop shop
  • Free migration support
  • 24/7/365 premium support for free
  • Automated renewal
  • Automated provisioning

Under Microsoft’s CSP program, you will bill and own the relationship and will have full administration access to the customer’s platform. You will get access to a basic support and knowledge base. You will handle customer support and pay for customer migration and tools.

There are several advantages with choosing a CSP partner other than Microsoft. Many partners provide support for all issues with a short response time. Many partners also provide migration support for all your clients with no minimum limits for the number of users. In terms of customer support, you can have the partner handle it or do it yourself. The signup processes are also automated, and you can get going in literally 15 minutes with some of these partners. The advantage of working with a partner is you won’t need to commit major capital investments immediately, and your go to market strategy becomes easy to implement. This means you can become profitable easily.

Aspects to consider when choosing a partner program

There are a few important aspects to consider when choosing our partner program. Here they are:

  • Recurring monthly margins and revenue

Ensure you look closely at the partner’s business model and ensure you understand the spending thresholds, monthly fees, and margins.

  • Reselling programs

Spend time thinking about what kind of program would be best for you and then choose the program from the right provider. Would you like to resell under your name with a white label partnership, or do you want to refer clients to the provider while earning a commission in the process?

  • Support when you need it

It is very important you tie up with a provider who offers free around the clock support. Apart from knowledge repositories and online communities, you should be able to get reliable support via phone, email, and chat.

  • API integration

Tie up with a partner who offers automated services through API integration. Otherwise, you might have to wait many days to provision your Office 365 subscription and suffer a complicated billing process.

  • Access to account managers or business specialists
  • Access to solution architects or pre-sales support
  • Access to one on one trainers, workshops, and webinars
  • True hands-on customer migration services
  • Partner and end customer support
  • Access to white label partner portal and partner toolbox

 

Provide extra value-added services and other recommendations

Offer some bundled services around the subscription you are reselling. Merely relying on the monthly recurring margins may not do. Here are a few services you should try selling:

  • Implementation and integration services

Most SMB’s require assistance and training to use the features of Office 365. As they use Office 365, they will have a lot of questions about all the new functionality they are seeing. You can position yourself as a training partner, even if it is done for free. Free training can open many opportunities for you down the line.

  • Providing managed services and support on a monthly or annual basis

It is often a great idea to sell managed services and support at a fixed rate per user or customer, instead of charging per incident or hour, which is the case for on-premise support. There are two reasons you can offer this – One, you can avoid many disruptions due to proactive, remote monitoring, and two, cloud solutions require much less support than an on-premise solution due to the occurrence of fewer issues and less time to resolve them.

  • Market yourself properly and upsell.
  • Learn to differentiate yourself from other resellers.
  • Choose a target market and tap social media marketing.
  • Identify common client problems and sell better.
  • Prepare yourself to face various types of client questions – situational questions, problem questions, implication questions, and need payoff questions. This is probably the most critical part of your selling process and the activity that decides your success rate at selling to customers.
  • Prepare yourself to face objections raised by the client from various angles.

The main benefits of Office 365

These are the main benefits of Office 365 you can talk about:

  • Work whenever, wherever.
  • Reach your customers with ease.
  • Focus on other more important areas by having a trusted partner take care of Office.
  • Invest and be ready to face the future.

Author: Rahul Sharma
Sources: http://info.sherweb.com/Office-365-partner-profit-ebook.html

GorillaCloud Builds Virtual Data Rooms (VDR) with FileCloud

As an up and coming data center services company, GorillaCloud Services is always on the lookout for better ways of serving its customers. Located just outside of London, UK, the company provides multiple solutions in the data center arena, using AWS Ireland hosting services to bring smarter, more cost-effective FileCloud solutions to its clients. GorillaCloud users hail from across the globe, from countries as far apart as the Nordics, Singapore, and the US. Getting happily involved with FileCloud all started with a specific customer request for a better virtual data room solution.

Wanted: A Better Mousetrap, but at a Lower Cost

A virtual data room or VDR is a secure virtual space for holding documents and files. VDRs can only be accessed by authorized persons, and are often used during business transactions between two companies. The virtual space means both parties can avoid the need to travel and can consult and manage documents in confidence at any time. A VDR usually runs on a server with a network connection with strictly controlled access. While the concept pleases many enterprises and organizations, costs can be high. GorillaCloud’s client asked the company to come up with an equally robust solution that would not strain the client’s budget.

GorillaCloud Goes Hunting for an Alternative VDR

Scott, the project leader responsible for finding a better VDR solution, looked at the market, and at alternatives like Dropbox and Google Drive. While these possibilities were cheaper than what the client had been using, they lacked auditability and granular access control. In a VDR, it is often critical to be able to restrict a viewer’s ability to forward, copy, or print the confidential information, for example. Scott could see that these services would therefore not meet the requirements of the client. In addition, they were oriented towards the public cloud, whereas a private cloud installation would be significantly better for reasons of security and manageability.

FileCloud is the Solution of Choice

When he saw what FileCloud offered, Scott knew he had the right component, in terms of security, management, and affordability. As FileCloud also provides Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), deployment on the AWS platform was quick and easy. The client could see proof of concept rapidly, allowing the project to move ahead and meet the client’s needs, while closing off contracts with other suppliers. About FileCloud engineers, Scott says “Support was brilliant throughout the whole building, testing phase. The support team provided a lot of value there as well, getting the information I needed in the time scales required”.

A Broadening Market, a Growing Potential for VDRs

Currently, GorillaCloud has a FileCloud license for 85 users, and already actively serves 78. The production environment for the operating system running the core VDR application is Amazon EC2. Data and files are then stored on a separate partition on Amazon EBS. The FileCloud encryption feature is also used. Additionally, GorillaCloud has a demo system that uses Amazon S3 for file storage. While VDRs have traditionally been used by lawyers and bankers, the market is widening. GorillaCloud’s solution serves needs in the oil and gas sector, albeit via financial organizations, for the procurement of assets.

Further Possibilities for Using FileCloud

Attractive pricing and industrial-strength capabilities are likely to keep FileCloud a firm favorite with GorillaCloud Services. Any customers of GorillaCloud who have experienced services like Dropbox will find the same user friendliness and ease of use with FileCloud, but with additional security, management, and backup facilities. Files can be synchronized across PCs and mobile computing devices including Android, Blackberry, iOS, and Windows devices. Migration of such customers to the superior grade of service offered by FileCloud is therefore easy from all angles: technical, business, and user experience. And as the icing on the cake, GorillaCloud can also easily brand FileCloud with its own logo and identity to build up its own reputation as a provider of affordable, quality solutions.

Find Out More about FileCloud Today

Service providers, banks, power utilities, national government departments, hospitality companies and many other kinds of organization are also users of FileCloud. Our extensive, robust, yet easy to use functionality, our ease of integration, and our legendary support are among the factors that have made us the preferred solution for these clients, as well as our advantageous pricing.

To find out more about how fast you could be using FileCloud to help your business, call us at FileCloud today. Take advantage of a free 14-day trial to try our file share, sync and mobile access advantages for yourself and see why other businesses have already made the decision to use FileCloud.