Top 5 Use Cases For Machine Learning in The Enterprise

machine learning

Artificial intelligence can be loosely defined as the science of mimicking human behavior. Machine learning is the specific subset of AI that trains a machine to learn. The concept emerged from pattern recognition and the theory that computers can learn without being programmed to complete certain tasks. Things like cheaper, more powerful computational processing, the growing volumes of data, and affordable storage has taken deep learning from research papers and labs to real life applications. However, all the media and hype surrounding AI, has made it extremely difficult to separate exciting futuristic predictions from pragmatic real-world enterprise applications. In order to avoid begin caught up in the hype of technical implementation, CIOs and other tech decision makers have to build a conceptual lens and look at the various areas of their company that can be improved by applying machine learning. This article explored some of the practical use cases of machine learning in the enterprise.

1. Process Automation

Intelligent process automation (IPA) combines artificial intelligence and automation. It involves the diverse use of machine learning. From automating manual data entry, to more complex use cases like automating insurance risk assessments. ML is suited for any scenario where human decision is used, but within set constraints, boundaries or patterns. Thanks to cognitive technology like natural language processing, machine vision and deep learning, machines can augment traditional rule-based automation and overtime learn to do them better as it adapts to change. Most IPA solutions already utilize ML-powered capabilities beyond simple rule based automation. The business benefits are much more extensive than cost saving and include better use of costly equipment or highly skilled employees, faster decisions and actions, service and product innovations, and overall better outcomes. By taking over rote tasks, machine learning in the enterprise frees up human worker to focus on product innovation and service improvement; allowing the company to transcend conventional performance trade-offs and achieve unparalleled levels of quality and efficiency.

2. Sales Optimization

Sales typically generates a lot of unstructured data that can ideally be used to train machine learning algorithms. This comes as good news to enterprises that have been saving consumer data for years, because it is also the place with the most potential for immediate financial impact from implementing machine learning. Enterprises eager to gain a competitive edge are applying ML to both marketing and sales challenges in order to accomplish strategic goals. Some popular marketing techniques that rely on machine learning models include intelligent content and ad placement or predictive lead scoring. By adopting machine learning in the enterprise, companies can rapidly evolve and personalize content to meet the ever changing needs of prospective customers. ML models are also being used for customer sentiment analysis, sales forecasting analysis, and customer churn predictions. With these solutions, sales managers are alerted in advance to specific deals or customers that are risk.

3. Customer Service

Chatbots and virtual digital assistants are taking over the world of customer service. Due to the high volume of customer interactions, the massive amounts of data captured and analyzed is the ideal teaching material required to fine tune ML algorithms. Artificial intelligence agents are now capable of recognizing a customer query and suggesting the appropriate article for a swift resolution. Freeing up human agents to focus on more complex issues, subsequently improving the efficiency and speed of decisions. Adopting machine learning in the enterprise cloud have an infallible impact when it comes to customer service-related routine tasks. Juniper research maintains that chatbots will create an annual $8 billion cost savings by 2022. According to a 2017 PWC report, 31 percent of enterprise decision makers believe that virtual personal assistants will significantly impact their business, more than any other AI powered solution. The same report found that 34 percent of executives say that the time saved as a result of using virtual assistants allowed them to channel their focus towards deep thinking and creativity.

4. Security

Machine learning can help enterprises improve their threat analysis and how they respond to attacks and security incidents. ABI research analysts estimate that machine learning in data security will increase spending in analytics, big data and artificial intelligence to $96 billion by 2021. Predictive analytics enables the early detection of infections and threats, while behavioral analytics ensures that any anomalies within the system does not go unnoticed. ML also makes it easy to monitor millions of data logs from mobile and other IoT capable devices and generate profiles for varying behavioral patterns with your IoT ecosystem. This way, previously stretched out security teams can now easily detect the slightest irregularities. Organizations that embrace a risk-aware mind-set are better positioned to capture a leading position in their industry, better navigate regulatory requirements, and disrupt their industries through innovation.

5. Collaboration

The key to getting the most out of machine learning in the enterprise lies in tapping into the capabilities of both machine learning and human intelligence. ML-enhanced collaboration tools have the potential to boost efficiency, quicken the discovery of new ideas and lead to improved outcomes for teams that collaborate from disparate locations. Nemertes’ 2018 UC and collaboration concluded that about 41 percent of enterprises plan to use AI in their unified communications and collaboration applications. Some uses cases in the collaboration space include:
• Video intelligence, audio intelligence and image intelligence can add context to content being shared, making it simpler for customers to find the files they require. Image intelligence coupled with object detection, text and handwriting recognition helps improve meta data indexing for enhance search.
• Real time language translation, facilitates communication and collaboration between global workgroups in their native languages.
• Integrating chatbots into team applications enables native language capabilities, like alerting team members or polling them for status updates.
That is just the tip of the iceberg, machine learning offers significant potential benefits for companies adopting it as part of their communications strategy to enhance data access, collaboration and control of communication endpoints.

 

Author: Gabriel Lando

image courtesy of freepik.com

MSP Trends That Will Reshape the Market in 2018

The digital economy works on the currency of ‘cloud’. For so many years now, the shout out has been for companies to move over to cloud-based storage, infrastructure, and application solutions. In the era of Anything-as-a-Service, enterprises need to think of vendors as strategic partners, and need to onboard those with capabilities to deliver end to end support. Because of the ever-increasing number of cloud technologies that a company has to work with, the relevance of managed service providers (MSPs) is at an all-time high. In this market, there are a few defining trends and transitions brewing, which have the potential to permanently re-shape the market in 2018. Let’s take a look at these trends.

 

 

Erosion of Margins Driving Changes in the Market

There’s been undeniable erosion in gross margins of MSPs in the past 2-3 years, primarily because of the emergence of a large number of players. Apart from increased competition, there are other factors responsible for this margin shrinking. For instance, MSPs are commoditizing services. Also, customers are clamoring for getting more services at lesser prices. This is even forcing MSPs to bundle valuable services such as security management into their service offers, for free, or for prices that hurt the bottom line. This is driving a major change in operations for MSPs. There’s a tremendous focus on automation of sales, billing, provisioning, and support of cloud services. This is being supplemented with efforts to reduce costs and improve operational efficiency. Also, MSPs look to offer whole solutions instead of one-off services.

 

 

 

 

Clients Expectations around Security

The threat landscape is changing rapidly; new attack vectors are added to the threat system, which means that enterprises need to keep evolving themselves. When enterprises engage large MSPs offering a wide range of cloud-based applications and infrastructure services, they expect them to also take complete responsibility for their information security needs. MSPs, however, need to brace up for tough conversations with clients. This is important for both the stakeholders – MSPs, as well as clients.

 

The key concerns to address, for both parties, are:

  • The need to embrace a growing number of security tools, all of which may or may not be supported by the MSP
  • The concept of shared responsibility for information security, and to explicitly mention the granular details in the contract
  • The role of the MSP in helping the enterprise recognize its network vulnerabilities and data security loopholes, via simulated cyber attacks
  • The need for regular awareness exercises carried out by the MSP to educate the enterprise leadership

 

Cloud Complexity

In 2018, there’s every reason that the race among SMBs to move more servers to the cloud computing model will intensify. Not only is this approach inexpensive, but also safer and reliable in many cases, as compared to the on-premise model. This will also add a lot more complexity to the cloud ecosystem for SMBs and enterprises. More cloud-based applications mean more user accounts, more movement of data between systems, and data transfer from cloud to on-premise systems. In general, this means that companies (and their MSPs) need to manage more, and do so in a landscape becoming increasingly complex. Because businesses are reliant on cloud technology for their routine operations, MSPs are bracing themselves to manage and deliver upon the disaster recovery and business continuity. In such an ecosystem, MSPs that can offer reliable disaster recovery and continuity will be the ones that get long-term contracts from businesses.

 

The Changing Market Dynamics Because of Evolving SaaS-MSP Relationships

There is going to be a lot of market focus on the relationship between SaaS companies (the creators of cloud-based business applications) and MSPs (companies that sell and support these services). Traditionally, SaaS vendors have not shown the inclination to figure out how the channel works. However, considering the major contribution of MSPs in the revenue mix, it’s likely that they will now have the motivation to work along with MSPs to strengthen their hold. This also means that we need to watch out for MSPs that try to push a specific SaaS company’s products on its own consumers. As per data released by Cloud Technology Alliance, 26% vendors distribute services via MSPs. The number is all set to skyrocket in 2018 and beyond.

 

The Need for More Choices

In the early days of cloud computing-based services, the major motivator for enterprises was the move from the CapEx model to operational expense model, which passed on major benefits to the bottom line. However, enterprise IT leaders now understand cloud-based applications and want to try out solutions from different vendors. Education is easily available, and because of it, enterprises now look for choice. This is a cue for MSPs to think big, expand their service offering, and embrace their clients’ preference for more choices within cloud applications.

 

Bundling – The Way Forward for MSPs

To boost revenues and to enjoy continued business from a customer, MSPs realize the need to offer wholesome services bundles. These bundles are made to appeal to specific verticals and customer segments. Many MSPs already offer such bundled services, spread across network management, information security management, cloud applications, and storage. All these services are made available for a monthly fee.

 

In the times to come, all MSPs will need to integrate IaaS and SaaS services to stay aligned with the ‘industry-specific solutions’ approach to service delivery. MSPs will invariably need better technologies to be able to integrate services with each other, as well as with their clients’ core business processes. Instead of strengthening back-end systems, MSPs need to develop their cloud capabilities.

 

Concluding Remarks

There are certainly a lot of forces, some working in parallel, and some against each other, but all of them impacting the current state of the MSP market nevertheless. For enterprises looking to work with an MSP, and for service providers looking to expand their offerings, it’s super important to keep track of these trends and align their strategies and tactics to accommodate them.

 

Author: Rahul Sharma

Here’s What MSPs Want Their Clients to Understand About IT Security

Cybersecurity was once a considerably unique discipline. Vendors specializing in security services were more than equipped to handle the prevalent digital threats. Managed service providers (MSPs), specializing in other kinds of services, relied on the security folks to devise and implement measures to keep networks and data safe from constant cyber threats and hackers.

 

Unfortunately, the situation has changed considerably over the years. Now, digital attacks make the news almost every other day, and every aspect of your infrastructure or application is at risk. No wonder security has become a pressing concern for every MSP. To combat cyber-crime and prevent any breaches, employees, executives, and IT personnel need to team up and create a solid communication strategy.

 

Growing Area of Concern

As the number of electronic devices and gadgets worldwide increases, we are becoming always-connected. So, unlike the past, when the burden of cybersecurity fell squarely on the shoulders of the IT department, the responsibility is now shared and discussed at the executive levels. Pay attention to what is being discussed in a boardroom right now, and you’ll notice that it is all about cyber incidents, security questions, and data breaches. So, cybersecurity has gradually become a key concern for companies and it is being prioritized accordingly. Unfortunately, not all organizations have successfully managed to translate the digital threats into credible business concerns. As a result, there are plenty of businesses that have no idea how to proceed.

 

Impact on the Structure of the Company

 

 

Cybersecurity comes with a host of challenges and issues, all of which crop up during your daily discussions at work or home. So do the measures adopted to safeguard computer systems worldwide against unauthorized attack or access. But media headlines appear to highlight the newest data breaches, which expose the leak of the confidential details of millions of customers to the public. These circumstances often cause market executives to be fired from their work. Businesses also get harmed by this mishap and notice a rapid drop in the value of their stock market. They are required to pay a specified “ransom” to the hijackers to access their information once more. For smaller companies, however, a sudden hack could very well threaten their existence as a business.

 

All Is Not as Safe as It Seems

Businesses tend to spend billions of dollars every year on advanced technology. This new equipment is meant to preserve the safety of important information and data, and deter malicious hackers and insiders from their attempts to bypass security measures and swipe data without a second thought. Unfortunately, most of the cybersecurity breaches occur as a result of human actions or errors. Also, people seem to be completely unaware of what they have done until it is too late. So, if you thought that protecting vital details or your identity through the use of technology was enough, think again. You will always be targeted by hackers into spilling valuable secrets unknowingly. Through a method known as social engineering, they target the weakest link in the cybersecurity spectrum – humans and exploit them to find loopholes and other entry points. Thus, it is a no-brainer that both technology and people work better together.

 

What Can You Do?

Now that the world is always connected, and your private details of organizations and individuals are susceptible to misuse and exposure, everyone must focus on cybersecurity. We must all work together in harmony for technology to easily identify suspicious activity and assess the threat level. When a malicious threat actor or hackers steal classified information, they do so by transcending the boundaries of gender, age, race, nationality, beliefs, or culture. Remember, your digital footprint, as well as your computer, is carefully evaluated whenever an opportunity presents itself, mostly for economic gain. Only by working as a team can employees, executives, and IT develop an effective communication strategy for beating cybercrime and preventing further victimization.

 

Understand the Human Error

Most often, it is people who are targeted by hackers and other malicious online entities. Ironically, it is the same people who are often responsible for lapses in cybersecurity. The problem is, our trusting nature. Hackers take advantage of this trust and use our willingness to cooperate and curiosity to get us to “click on the link” in personal or business emails.  But the moment you clicked on a bad link, you might have unknowingly downloaded a virus or malware into your system. And if you’re one of the unlucky few, you might be the victim of a ransomware attack, where all your data is locked up, and unless you pay a certain amount, you will never be able to access the data again. At other times, the downloaded malware may unknowingly gather sensitive information, like passwords and credentials, so it can exploit them later.

 

So, even if these actions are accidental, the outcome can considerably harm your company, your community, your family, or yourself. Until you learn to be suspicious of too-good-to-be-true emails or shady links online, malicious insiders will continue to take you for a ride.

 

What Clients Should Change or Do Differently

Before you log onto the Internet the next time, whether at home or work, think before you connect. You need to adopt a balanced approach so that the cybersecurity threats to your wellbeing as well as your business are minimized. Find the middle ground between technology and people. Try following these eight tips on what clients should do to maintain the efficiency and safety of their organization and stop cyber attacks at the same time:

  • Teach employees, partners, and clients about the basics of cybersecurity.
  • Never forget to make backups of vital business data.
  • Adopt a people-focused approach to cybersecurity.
  • Make simplicity and ease of use a priority.
  • Install password manager software to boost password security and protect your accounts.
  • Use two-factor authentication for sensitive accounts and emails.
  • Update software regularly and scan your system.
  • Know what you are clicking on.
  • Use encryption.

 

Concluding Remarks

MSPs must familiarize their clients with all the common cybersecurity errors and work with them to strengthen their systems so that no data is lost or stolen by hackers. The more informed the client is, the better they will be able to protect their personal information.

How MSPs Leverage Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Many enterprises mainly rely on MSPs to manage their technology, and the deployment of cloud-based solutions with the help of a trusted managed service provider is rapidly becoming the norm. Enterprise architecture innovation leaders can greatly benefit from utilizing high-quality managed services when implementing and operating IaaS solutions on Google cloud platform, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. The size of the opportunity for MSPs to support enterprises during and after their migration to the cloud is massive. The analysts at 451 research predict that cloud managed services will grow to a $43 billion market by 2018.

The arrival of massive scale platforms built by Google, Microsoft and Amazon has completely changed the enterprise infrastructure world. They are now capable of operating on a scale and efficiency that is virtually impossible to match. This coupled with an incomparable geographic scope has led to the creation of a critical mass of customers and an ecosystem of partners. The only way for the reseller market to survive the rapidly expanding cloud usage is to adapt. The market will be driven by its ability to meet the demands that arise from the surging complexity of technology, the network-dependency of infrastructure and applications, and the practices of the ever-more mobile workforce.

The Enterprise Cloud is Hybrid

One of the main motivations to keep workloads on-premises is typically the lack of ability to move them as-is or simply enterprise liability. As a result, more enterprises are opting for a hybrid deployment so that they can enjoy the efficacy and cost-saving benefits of a public cloud coupled with the security and control that comes with a private cloud. However, despite the fact that buying instances on AWS or Azure is a simple task; the skills needed to build, deploy and run an application is much more complex, various intricacies are bound to arise.

A recent survey championed by Microsoft revealed that 38 percent of people involved in the recruitment process of professionals with cloud skills in the last 12 months found it difficult to find the right skills. The survey went ahead to state that even as the number of professionals with right cloud-related skills continue to grow, the demand for those skills will likely increase at a faster rate than the available supply. According to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service, 2016; most customers start off by selecting a cloud platform that suits their workload, then look for an MSP to manage it. As opposed to finding a ‘managed-cloud’ solution from an MSP that offers basic IaaS capabilities on its platform. Customers also tend to extend existing managed services to include the management of a third party cloud IaaS offering.

If these trends are anything to go by, we can conclude that enterprise IT decision makers first select their IaaS, and only later realize their collective lack of skills to create a robust, enterprise environment. And the market is reflecting this change. In the 2017 Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Infrastructure report, Gartner surmised that 75 percent of effective implementations will be fulfilled by innovative, highly skilled MSPs with a cloud-native, DevOps-Centric service delivery approach. This tiny but growing group of managed service providers is filling a gap in a specific industry vertical.

Big Data Requires Big Performance

Information is power, and this digital age, data is everywhere. The struggle of how best to leverage this data rages on – but IaaS is almost always a part of the discussion. IBM recently reported that 2.5 million terabytes of data is produced daily. The inundating volume of information present a unique opportunity to both small and large business equipped to take advantage of it. According to the International Data Cooperation (IDC), the big data market is set to record a $48.6 billion growth by 2019. And a growing number of Managed Service Providers are positioning themselves to net a notable portion of that revenue.

Analyzing large datasets demands more than simply placing a few extra servers and hard disk arrays into an organization’s data center. A large majority of large data projects tend to fail because on-premises technology is too arduous to optimize and deploy, and sizing it rarely accurate. Most enterprises, large and small alike, simply lack the time, budget, staff, or bluntly, the interest to support and develop their own big data infrastructure. MSP can position themselves as infrastructure partners who not only manage by also provide a high performance, reliable foundation for short and long term big data needs.

Axiomatic Cost Benefits

With IaaS, MSPs instantly have the ability to provide enterprise-grade infrastructure without investing a ton of cash to deploy their own cloud. They also benefit from the latest hardware maintenance and updates while maintaining full control of sever usage – so scalability will never be a concern. Removing or adding servers is a breeze and you only have to pay for you use. The most appealing thing about leveraging IaaS is that it provides all the flexibility you require to offer services that cater to your client’s specific needs. At the end of it all, you credibility as an MSP is boosted because you are capable of providing reliable service

In Closing

For MSP’s who wish to deliver cloud services but feel that public cloud services are too impuisant to pricing pressures and lack sufficient privacy and security controls; utilizing Infrastructure as a Service can ease the time to market and reduce the costs associated with implementing a private cloud solution. As a matter of fact, some IaaS providers currently sell their solutions to both end-user consumers as well as to managed service providers.

Author: Gabriel Lando

Managed Service Support Tools That MSPs Can’t Ignore

With more and more businesses expanding their applications catalogs and stretching their IT spending every quarter, the market for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) is as hot as it ever was. Amidst all the competition, managed service providers need to keep focused on making sure that they embrace the technologies and tools that can assist in better service delivery at lower costs. In this guide, we will cover some of the types of tools that every managed service provider needs to know and leverage to differentiate its services from the other players, and also to drive operational efficiencies.

Professional Service Automation

Service automation technology is a core component of a professional managed service provider’s service basket. Particularly in IT settings, professional service automation (PSA) assumes a greater value. These software help MSPs implement the required functionalities seamlessly.
Document and project management are the two most important aspects of PSA software. Apart from this, PSA software also brings in functionalities for event scheduling, reminders and notifications, and invoicing. Good PSA tools go a long way in helping MSPs automate many processes, which lends a tremendous productivity boost to the employees, and helps the service provider control project costs.

Patch Management

Managed service providers are responsible for the upkeep of several applications for their clients. After the shockwave of ransomware attacks that shook the world in May 2017, the importance of patching has been underscored like never before. Even so, application vendors are not coming up with patches much faster than previously. Also, clients have become a lot more particular about getting their apps upgraded on the same day as the patch is released.
Now, manual tracking of the patching status of dozens of apps is a very time-consuming, effort-intensive, and financially draining exercise for MSPs. This is where they can leverage patch management tools to take control. Helping with central patch deployment and management via intuitive dashboards, apart from setup of regular patch checks, these software save a lot of time and money for MSPs, and ensure that the applications they’re responsible for are never compromised. Automated policy management for servers and desktops is also often included in patch management solutions.

Remote Monitoring and Management

Traditional monitoring has been an important part of MSP operations for a long time now, and most market leaders in this space have already adopted remote monitoring and management tools to take control. Monitoring an enterprise’s IT infrastructure for anomalies and errors can be a herculean task, considering the expanse and complexity of such systems. This is where automation emerges as a solution, and remote monitoring automation and event-response software prove to be invaluable for this.
These software not only streamline and centralize monitoring of infrastructure, but can also include applications, databases, and virtual machines in their scope. These remote monitoring and management tools help MSPs to expand their client base by providing preconfigured monitoring and even response solutions to clients for their basic infrastructure monitoring requirements.

Remote Access Protocol

The remote monitoring and management automation we discussed above is pretty expansive in its scope. Often, MSPs have to take care of very precise troubleshooting relevant to well-defined business processes and restricted to very specific virtual machines, databases, and servers. This is where MSPs need a simplistic utility instead of using remote monitoring and management models. Thankfully, remote access protocols come in handy here. For example, Secure Shell (SSH) enables MSPs to access servers and desktops from remote systems. This creates the perfect blend of security and control for MSPs to solve troubleshooting issues for clients.

Anti-Malware

The Internet is a core aspect of nearly every kind of business, and that’s why cyber-security is a concern for every startup, SMB, and enterprise alike. The responsibility of ensuring absolute security of all its internal systems, as well as the interfaces it establishes with clients and vendors, rests with MSPs. This is where the need for highly sophisticated anti-malware software emerges. Signature-based anti-malware software are not reliable anymore; leaders in the cyber-security industry have come up with antivirus and anti-malware solutions that leverage the power of machine learning to make out suspicious commands, and take appropriate actions. As a managed services provider, you can’t afford to take any chances hence you should opt for the best-in-class anti-malware software.

Security Suites

We addressed ransomware and malware earlier, but those aren’t the only security measures essential to MSPs. Managed service providers need to take proper care of the entire IT infrastructure to deliver world-class services to their clients. In order to keep data secure, users protected, interfaces intact, and network sanitized, MSPs need a suite of firewall, VPN, and intrusion detection systems. This also encompasses the physical security of its data center and server rooms.
Threat landscapes are changing quicker than businesses anticipate, and that’s why a notoriously large number of cybercrime attempts succeed. A pioneering MSP can’t sit back on its laurels; it must always be vigilant. Make sure you ramp up your security suites.

Balancing Automation with Planning

The types of tools discussed above help bring in a great deal of automation, which obviously delivers significant cost advantages to MSPs. However, no MSP can simply depend on these tools and hope to deliver high-end services to clients. This is where the MSP leadership team needs to kick in and invest proper resources towards long-term planning, disaster recovery and business continuity planning, and service improvement in general.

Concluding Remarks: When it comes to tools for managed service providers are concerned, the market isn’t exactly lacking. Tools that help in day-to-day operations management, tools for advanced reporting, security tools, monitoring automation tools, and support desk ticket management tools – you name it, and there’s something for MSPs. However, for an MSP to truly differentiate its services from similar players in the market, it needs to focus on adding value with tools of the kind discussed in this guide.

Author: Rahul Sharma

Sources
https://www.sherweb.com/blog/best-msp-support-tools/
https://mspalliance.com/advanced-tools-key-differentiator-msps/
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/3-tools-support-managed-service-delivery-erick-simpson

What Every Admin Must Know About Windows 10

Windows administration isn’t easy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Thankfully, there are native tools to assist administrators in getting stuff done. Then, there are plugins and tools to do what you believe is not done best using Windows built-in functions. Windows admin, however, extends far beyond basic checks such as managing multiple user accounts with their specific privileges, running disk defragmentation, clearing out caches, and keeping the system safe from viruses. To be truly an expert, you need to be aware of all the system admin tools Windows 10 offers. Here’s a guide to help you out.

Task Scheduler

Windows uses Task Scheduler internally to manage the execution of tasks that need to be run only occasionally, or at very specific times. Of course, admins can use Task Scheduler to take control of time-specific tasks. Another useful application that Task Scheduler can be used for is to find potential malware running in the background. Cleaning auto-start locations is a basic activity, and malware have become adept at hiding their startup locations. Checking Task Scheduler helps admins identify potential malware and weed them out of the system.

Event Viewer

Windows 10 Event Viewer is all a system admin needs to get complete visibility of what’s going on inside the computer. Event Viewer provides all the insight you need to troubleshoot an issue. You can type ‘event’ into the search box, and then open Event Viewer to load it. The window has three panes – the leftmost houses log types and views, the middle pane houses logs, and the right pane shows a list of action items. The five types of events listed in the left pane are:

  • Application events – These are related to programs.
  • Security events – Events related to security audit.
  • Setup events – These are domain control events.
  • Forwarded events – Events forwarded via networks devices.
  • System events – Windows system file events.

Mostly, you will need to depend on Event Viewer to get basic info about a problematic process, and then conduct deeper research on how to solve it.

Disk Management

Windows 10 Disk Management is the most upgraded version of the well-known disk management utility included in all previous Windows versions. This tool is invaluable for system admins to manage hard disk partitioning without rebooting the Windows system. Also, this tool helps you create, delete, and format disk partitions. You can change drive paths, set partitions as active, extend or shrink partitions, and initialize a new disk before using it.
With the disk management utility, you can convert empty dynamic disks to basic disks. Also, system admins can convert empty MBR disks to GPT disks. If you wish to, for instance, change the device letter for your USB drive, you can make then show us as U: here, instead of the default letter. Also, for issues such as a drive not working, Disk Management is the first point of check for a system admin.

Resource Monitor

For a deep dive into the processes going on in a computer and to understand where the resources are being consumed, trust Resource Monitor. It’s easier to use than PerfMon, and has more insights than Task Manager; hence, it’s a useful resource for a system admin. Trust Resource Monitor to help you understand resource consumption when you run applications or test different configuration settings. Also, for troubleshooting Windows performance issues, Resource Monitor becomes a key source of insight.
On the right side of the Resource Monitor Memory tab, you will see graphs for Used Physical Memory, Hard Faults, and Commit Charge. Check the Processes table on the Memory tab for a list of currently running processes, with their memory usage broken down for you. As long as you know what to look for, you can trust Resource Monitor to put together the info you need so you can debug all Windows performance issues.

Shared PC Modes

Windows 10 offers a pretty useful shared PC mode. This makes it easy for administrators to manage unique requirements such as use of a computer for customer access, as a reception or help desk computer, or as a kiosk computer. In scenarios where multiple users need to work on the same computer to perform vastly different tasks, shared PC modes emerges as a good option. In the shared PC mode, a Windows 10 computer is aimed at being maintenance and management free, making sure system admins have enough time and mind space to perform activities that add more value.

User Experience Virtualization (UE-V)

Complementing the shared PC concept is the User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) feature. It allows system admins to set a computer up for customized usage by individual users who don’t wish to use a roaming user profile. With User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), it’s possible to use different settings for Microsoft Store appearance, background picture, accent colors, font sizes, languages, and language for different users. In User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), the custom settings info is stored in a centrally managed network file, and when users log in, their corresponding settings are activated.

AAD Joined Machines

Bring your own device (BYOD) is an enterprise reality. Also, it’s common for enterprises to seek contractor services, and have several employees working from their personal computers from their homes. When so many computers that don’t exist on the enterprise domain are used to perform routine work, the system admin job becomes rather cumbersome. However, Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory (AAD) can help admins manage and secure systems that can’t be joined to the domain. This also makes remote support easier for employees.

Concluding Remarks: The world of system administration for Windows computers is expansive, and the tools we have covered in this guide are certainly not all comprehensive. However, being comfortable in using these tools can help admins perform most of the routine responsibilities they’re likely to face in an enterprise setup.

Auhtor: Rahul Sharma

Sources
https://techtalk.gfi.com/10-new-windows-10-features-for-sysadmins/
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/configuration/ue-v/uev-for-windows
https://techtalk.gfi.com/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-resource-monitor-in-windows-10/
https://www.disk-partition.com/windows-10/partition-hard-drive-windows-10-0528.html

Top 5 Office 365 Resources For Every MSP

Scrolling through different websites, trying to find all the newest and best information for reselling Office 365 – this process is important but tedious. The question is – can you afford to waste so many hours? You might argue the Internet contains plenty of sales videos and training tips aimed at managed service providers (MSPs) selling Microsoft Office 365. Surely watching these will tell you what you need to know. Actually, there are so many resources available it is often hard to determine which sites improve your business and which ones you need to avoid.

 

(image source: microsoft.com)
Whether this is your first brush with the cloud or you are an experienced reseller, the list we have compiled for you below will surely help with the selection process:

1. Office Blogs by Microsoft

When in doubt, there’s no better way to resolve your query or gain the information you want than straight from the source. Microsoft being the developer of O365, you’ll be the first to know in-depth details about any recent developments from Microsoft’s Office Blogs.
What Is It?
Authored by Microsoft insiders, this is the official site where users find helpful tips and tricks, how-tos, videos, webinars, and news. When you access the site, you can select the program you wish to learn more about. Microsoft publishes new details on topics relevant to the cloud business daily. Due to the frequency of the release schedule, users will find a reason to keep coming back regularly.
The best part is, Office 365 resellers will find it easier to locate the information they are after. Just check the Office 365 News Roundup section, which showcases all the newest developments in the world of O365. You will also get to know more about the newly introduced Bookings service, which makes it easier for your customers to schedule appointments with you via your organization’s Facebook page.
Why It’s Important?
This resource is a great way to keep abreast of new developments as far as MS Office applications are concerned. It is constantly being updated, and all the major programs are covered to keep resellers in the loop with no hassle. These blogs are well worth a read if you are one of the millions of people who use MS Office programs and wish to know more.

2. Microsoft Trust Center

Think reselling Office 365 is easy? Just wait until you have to field a barrage of questions from potential clients regarding data security. However, the Office 365 Trust Center makes things more convenient for you.
What Is It?
The Office 365 Trust Center is a one stop shop, where the company reveals information on how much effort the developers put into keeping data safe. The Trust Center is a great place to discover new details about the security offered to tenant data from individual organizations. You also learn more on how Internet-based threats are defeated and how Microsoft resists attempts by third parties and governmental agencies to extract information about your valuable data from a compliance perspective.
You can use the Microsoft Trust Center to draw information about Microsoft’s compliance requirements, privacy controls, and data centers. Building strong arguments for any customer hesitant to move to the cloud has never been easier than with the help of this resource.
Why It’s Important?
This is the foremost resource for answering and all tough questions directed at you from clients regarding data security for O365.

3. Office 365 Sales Guide

Try to think from the client’s perspective for a moment – what would prompt them to buy an Office 365 plan from you, when they can buy it from other vendors or even Microsoft just as easily? This is just one of the difficult questions you can find answers to in the Office 365 Sales Guide.
What Is It?
This nifty guide includes a comprehensive list of benefits, licensing details, and objection handling for Office 365.
Why Is It Important?
This guide is helpful for teaching you all the right questions to ask for identifying possible clients for Office 365. You can understand the best position to showcase the proper product benefits. This will allow you to overcome the client’s main points of doubt. You can use counter arguments effectively for handling the major objections clients have about purchasing Microsoft Office 365.

4. Free Office 365 Demo

Instead of telling your target customers why they should buy Microsoft Office 365, wouldn’t it be better to show them? And that is exactly what you can do with a free O365 demo. A display of this program’s full power and capabilities should be enough to sway the client’s mind in your favor.
What Is It?
The free Office 365 Demo tool allows you to build your own populated O365 demo tenants.
Why Is It Important?
The keyword here is populated. Normal demos with empty tenants have no conversations, documents, or other users to share with clients, so it is quite a dull experience. No wonder Office 365 is a tough sell for many MSPs. However, when you have a populated demo in hand, you can easily use it to convince customers. All you’ll need for creating such a demo is a Microsoft Partner Network ID.

5. Office 365 Partner Profit Ebook

The Office 365 Partner Profit ebook is the ultimate guide for any managed service provider that wishes to learn what it takes to resell Office 365 under the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program.
What Is It?
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about selling O365, from packaging your offers carefully to the right marketing, identifying sales options to targeting the right customers.
Why Is It Important?
Being part of the CSP program will enable you to increase the value of your product portfolio by creating new product bundles, including your own managed services.
Use the five resources mentioned above to dispel questions or doubts you might have had regarding the sale of Microsoft Office 365 and become a pro reseller quickly.

Author: Rahul Sharma

Sources
http://mspmentor.net/blog/10-office-365-sites-every-msp-should-bookmark
https://books.google.co.in/books?id=Z_t8CQAAQBAJ&pg=PT1029&lpg=PT1029&dq=why+officeblogs+is+helpful&source=bl&ots=dWkJazh3xV&sig=jg6PsIEl8KFzv5zdEF_BJPbgWKE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjkg6e5yMHTAhXFQo8KHafcDrwQ6AEITzAJ#v=onepage&q=why%20officeblogs%20is%20helpful&f=false
https://help.evangel.edu/hc/en-us/articles/201383245-A-Great-Way-to-Learn-About-Microsoft-Office
https://www.petri.com/will-the-office-365-trust-center-allay-cloud-security-concerns
http://www.cloudondemand.co.za/blog/project-plan-building-office-365-cloud-practice/

How Can MSPs Leverage Business Analytics to Scale Their Business

Every modern business can greatly benefit from being more analytical across the board. The varying definitions exist, in a nutshell, business analytics (BA) is used to refer to a set of practices, applications, technologies and skills for analyzing and investigating business performance in order to make more informed structuring and decision making in the future. Companies committed to data driven decision making to rely on business analytics to create strategies and roadmaps. By leveraging business analytics, MSPs can gain insights that drive business decisions while optimizing and automating business processes. Big data and analytics are poised to shape the business of the future in unimaginable ways. Managed service providers can use BA to overcome hurdles and combat challenges, subsequently adding value to their MSP solution and business.

Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey mapping gives you a visualization of your client’s experience from their point of view, across all the varying touch-points of the sales process. Effective journey maps extend beyond the capture and representation of data in a visual format. They help create a sense of empathy for your clients while fostering growth-oriented decision making within an MSP. Having a qualitative, humanistic perspective on your clients provides insights into the why behind quantitative analytics and key business performance metrics. This paves the way for more confident decisions on where to fast-track investment on behalf of experience-driven growth.
Key business metrics can further be integrated into the customer journey map itself. The integration of quantitative and qualitative data using a journey mapping framework is the first step towards a more client-oriented view of business performance data and behavioral analytics. Customer journey maps are a crucial part of business analytics because they help identify key moments in the customer journey. Understanding how you are delivering on those expectations and needs allows you to focus investment on customer experience satisfaction, subsequently driving growth.

Set business goals based on performance

Business analytics can be used to better align client’s goals with performance. As analytical understanding grows, targets become more strategic. Setting realistic targets is important to an MSP because it facilitates the optimization of key business processes over time, allowing the managed service provider to operate and innovate in ways that make it stand out in the eyes and experience of its clients. A good target possesses immense opportunity to not only create momentum but also engage management commitment. Setting clear goals based on analytical data guarantees that accurate performance ratings will be maintained without any drop in service quality. Performance increases with better accuracy.

Feasible Service Level Agreements

A service level agreement is a crucial part of any contract between a managed service provider and client; it specifies, in measurable terms, the scope and quality of services that will be provided. As businesses become more data driven, more and more data is being handled outside the institution’s control. SLA’s have to be put in place for vendor-supplied data. As an MSP you are responsible for delivering the agreed on service level to your clients. Ultimately, this responsibility drives everything you do. The key to regaining control lies in getting better information about the environment on which the business application is running through policy-driven IT management analytics and IT automation.
Unattainable SLAs force service providers into the unenviable situation of constantly chasing reality. No one likes being in a hole of their own design on the job. The surest way to get out of that hole would be to anticipate events. This is possible through analyzed policies as the basis of the agreement. With analytics, MSPs end up with service level agreements that are designed to support long-term policies that address day-to-day issues. Analytics is the first step towards SLA’s being seen as positive contributors to IT operational success as opposed to punitive contracts established to stifle innovation.

Author: Gabriel Lando

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