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

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