Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

The Skills That Separate a Great IT Manager from Good Ones

Working in the IT industry means dealing with a rapid pace of change that impacts everything, right from operational practices to remunerations. Plus, the complexity of systems, applications, and processes is mindboggling. Then, systems and processes are so interlinked that managers can’t take a single decision without dealing with several little-known variables. Plus, clients are always pushing to shrink delivery teams and cut costs every year. Of course, there are cybersecurity and compliance risks to make life tough.

It’s commendable, then, that there are great IT leaders in most enterprises, driving progress, and enabling everyone around them. In this guide, we’ve covered some of the skills that separate a great IT manager from the merely good ones.

Understanding the People behind the Employees

Of course, understanding one’s people is a skill relevant to managers in every industry, and not particularly IT. However, IT presents specific challenges that make it crucial for a great manager to understand the people in his/her team.

In a typical IT team, there are people who are keen to learn the latest technologies and work using latest tools. Then, there are people who wish to grow their expertise within a specific technology and come closer to the business impacts of the technology. Put an employee in a role that’s in utter contrast to his/her key technology learning motivations, and you’ll have a might mess to manage very soon. Instead, great IT managers are always prepared to go to great lengths to understand their team and help them take up IT operations and delivery roles that match well with them.


Emotional Intelligence

It’s been suggested that emotional intelligence accounts for almost 90% of the difference between good and great managers in general. IT managers who take conscious efforts to upgrade their emotional intelligence reap the benefits in the form of respect from all related stakeholders, faster and better conflict resolution and even quicker and more valuable promotions. When pressures from all sides (clients, internal auditors, dissatisfied employees, and supervisors) mount, the great IT manager is able to exercise caution, care, and courage in dealing with situations. Emotional intelligence also helps IT managers understand the intrinsic feelings and desired of different players around them, further enabling them to frame their communication so as to appease, satisfy, and convince them. A keen sense of observation, coupled with high EQ, is the perfect recipe for success for an IT manager.


The Ability to Upgrade One’s Technical Knowledge

In a typical IT manager’s routine day, there are 2-4 meetings, several discussions on project KPIs, and brainstorming on new projects and campaigns. With an eternal stream of deadline bound deliverables to manage, it’s tough for IT managers to find out the time and desire to upgrade their technical knowledge. However, strong technical understanding is essential for managers to maneuver conversations with teams comprised mostly of IT engineers. Plus, employees are quick to identify IT managers who fail to account for the limitations and strong points of technologies and tools while devising plans and strategies.


The Ability to Delegate Extensively and Correctly

IT is an industry where the depth of subject matter knowledge is so much that it almost accepted that individuals won’t possess it. Thus, IT managers always need to rely on several people to take control of projects. This calls upon managers to showcase dexterity in delegating tasks to others (again, this links back to the skill of knowing your team). Developments in IT business sphere and operational management frameworks are so fast that IT managers always need to anticipate the need to keep their time free for proactive management. This is only possible if they delegate tasks like a pro.



A no-brainer, for sure. But why does an IT Manager need to be super strong in communication? The answer – because the very nature of the product or service is such that customers don’t exactly understand or appreciate the nuances unless somebody explains them in a language they are comfortable with. Only a strong communicator, hence, can detect unsaid emotions among client representatives and mold communications accordingly.


The Ability Of Being Decisive

Expect an IT manager to face several situations every day, wherein they are expected to make quick decisions. Whether it’s something short-term such as estimating resourcing needs for a new project to something with long-term consequences, such as deciding among a few equally potent vendors for a virtualization project – IT managers have to rely on their intuition, experience, data, advice, and heuristics to be able to manage such situations. Unremarkable IT managers fall into the trap of extracting data from different sources for every decision they need to make. Equally obnoxious, of course, is the practice of taking hasty decisions and letting your teams bear the brunt of the same. The great IT manager strikes the right balance.


Creating A Culture of Innovation

Considering the breakneck speed at which the dynamics of IT industry are changing, teams that fail to innovate will fail to exist in a few years. How does an IT manager, then, foster the spirit of innovation, particularly considering how important it is to also maintain operational discipline? Well, great IT managers do so by:

  • Ensuring innovators that they’ll find their leaders by their side, even if the innovators don’t deliver the desired results.
  • Connecting innovators with the right people, at the right time.
  • Explaining the value of innovation and experimental trials with different options to clients.


Calculated risks, taken consciously – that’s a good mantra to live by. It takes continued focus on extracting valuable lessons from failures, documenting them, and sharing them with the entire team, for IT managers to truly grow their people.


Concluding Remarks

Amidst all the challenges of working in the IT industry, great IT managers manage to stay calm, deliver projects within deadlines, and grow their teams and themselves. This guide presents some of the skills that help them do so.


Author: Rahul Sharma

The Art of Database Performance Optimization

Advancements in relational database management systems (RDBMS) and availability of better hardware have made sure that response times for SQL queries are going down. However, there is still a lot that a developer can do while designing the database and writing SQL queries that can help optimize database performance. It’s also important to steer clear of the common mistakes that database admins (DBAs) commit. Because most of the databases use the same design concepts, DBAs have every reason to advance their understanding of database performance optimization. In this guide, we’ll talk at length about how the best in the industry do it.



Investing In A Good Monitoring System

A monitoring system is the biggest asset in the hands of system administrators. A wholesome monitoring solution is effectively half your database performance optimization headaches solved.

The system that you choose must be able to comprehensively showcase details of systems, tools, and applications from your IT ecosystem. Such a system goes a long way in helping database admins:

  • Maintain complete oversight of the database operations across the IT landscape
  • Creating alerts based on certain kind of information requests and workloads
  • Get automated warnings of anomalous database use requests
  • Quickly locating choke points and bottlenecks in the databases
  • Taking preemptive action to secure, maintain, and optimize databases


Database Statistics

For any SQL optimizer, one of the most important resources is in the form of database statistics. These stats comprise the following information:

  • Tables in the catalog
  • Indexes of the tables
  • Interrelationships between these indices

Optimizers use these stats to dynamically decide the least expensive path to serve a query. In many database performance audits, it’s generally found that stats are outdated. The result, queries won’t be served using the least expensive paths. This increases the overall response time of the database and sends performance KPIs for a toss.

Database admins need to always ensure that stats for their databases remain updated. For whichever RDBMS product you’re using, the product manual will have all the necessary information on the commands you can execute to update stats.



Determine the Expected Growth

Indices are a double-edged sword. Without them, your select queries will take too long to return results. Too many indices, on the other hand, reduce the performance of DML queries (insert, update, and delete).

Indices can have a significant negative impact on DML queries. While creating an index, DBAs can specify a value for the fill factor. This helps reduce the potential negative impact.

When you create an index, the data in the column is stored on disk. Next, when new rows of data are created, or the values of the data elements within the column are changed, then the index needs to be reorganized. This takes a toll on DML queries.

A solution is to specify the expected growth for an index when you know that new rows of data will be regularly added. In some RDBMS solutions, this option is known as fill factor, and in others, it’s called PCTFREE (percent free).


Specify Indices in Select Queries

Mostly, the optimizer chooses the appropriate index for particular table based on statistics. However, you can also specify the index name in the select query. Most databases offer this option, using which you can take control of the performance of regularly used select queries. The syntax and method of specifying an index within a select query differ across databases.


Evaluation Database Explanations

The database returns an explanation for every select query created by the optimizer. This explanation can provide tremendous insights to DBAs in their efforts to optimize databases. Using the explanations, they can fine tune SQL queries and deliver significant database performance improvements. Each database produces offers its unique syntax for DBAs to use to get the explanations. Also, we recommend you try out one of the many 3rd party tools to run explanation commands against databases. For instance, WinSQL Professional is one of the renowned tools that also offer database query explanations analysis as one of its features.


Database Splitting in Hard Drives

You might already know the speed limitations of input-output operations for hard disks. When the size of your databases increases, these limitations become all the more prominent.

Some databases, thankfully, allow databases to be split across multiple hard disks. Some even allow splitting tables across different hard disks. Since more heads work simultaneously to fetch data in such an arrangement, the speed of operations is tremendously improved.



Limit the Amount of Data in Play

Lesser the amount of data retrieved, faster will the response be. Kind of obvious? Well, only if this were followed, most enterprise database performance measures would be a lot better. Most of the data filtering must be carried out at the server end and only a minimal amount of it kept at the client end. Because of this, limited data is sent on the wire, and the response speeds are correspondingly better.

The database level optimizations are not limited to query design improvements. There’s a lot that database administrators can achieve merely by understanding database performance with the help of a strong monitoring system.


Collaboration between Database Developers and Administrators

In most enterprises and SMBs, DBAs mostly handle database tuning tasks. However, there are several developers that essentially do DBA like tasks. However, developers and administrators don’t always find it easy to work along with each other. This is caused because of factors such as different key responsive areas (KRAs), different reporting structures, and often, a lack of interpersonal skills.

Developers need to understand the reason why DBAs are not inclined to embrace rapid changes. That’s because they need to view and manage the database as a whole. The impact of the smallest of database problems could be gigantic. DBAs, in turn, should understand the developers’ need to know the status of the database and assist them in carrying out tests in quality clients.


Concluding Remarks

Start with the technical aspects of database performance management, then move on to monitoring and insight drove improvements, followed by a focus on driving synergies among DBAs and database developers.


Author: Rahul Sharma

The Qualities That Make a System Admin an Asset for an Enterprise

The job of a system administrator is somewhat different from the job of a dedicated IT consultant with expertise in a specific technology. System administrators are entrusted with the responsibility of server maintenance, performance monitoring, security upkeep, and hardware upgrades. Whenever a server problem arises, it’s expected that more than a few IT systems and related processes with being negatively impacted. Also, this means that dozens (or even hundreds) of end users will be shouting out, calling for immediate support, and in general, making life tough for the system administrators. Because of the hands-on nature of a system administrator’s job, it’s recommended that you look for certain qualities in candidates who’ve applied for openings of a system administrator’s role in your company. Also, skill enhancement training must focus on nurturing and strengthening these qualities in system administrators.


Reliable Strong Technical Knowledge

There’s absolutely no alternative for a system administrator. He has to be at least above average in his understanding of technologies, processes, systems, and hardware and must have a parallel learning track that leads to subject matter expertise. This entails:

  • Understanding of operating systems, applications, services, and organizational processes
  • Earning highly relevant and updated technical certifications such as RHCE and MCSE
  • Furthering one’s understanding of cloud computing technologies, virtualization, and networking, all the time.

At any stage, each of your systems administration teams must have a few technical experts who can collectively be relied upon to address any kinds of technical issues in the processes they own.

Enterprises generally use three gates to qualify high potential system administrators:

  • Undergraduate Degree Holders with specialization in computer science/IT
  • System admins certified by a credible agency
  • System admins with experience of working in an enterprise with similar IT infrastructure as yours.

A Good Sense of Judgement

Across the globe, there’s call and clamor for more innovation in how IT personnel perform their jobs. For system administrators, however, the propensity to innovate must take a back seat to a sense of operational discipline. Remember, it was a manual error done by a system administrator that causes Amazon S3 outage in February 2017. Enterprises must seek to deploy dedicated system administration experts to innovate to create new products and let those with a well-developed intuition and judgment take care of operations. Everything that a system administrator does has ripple effects that can be amplified and often become too gigantic to control. However, a good sense of judgment helps them stay in control when the going gets tough.

Need to Work With Non-Technical Staff, Patiently

Ever so often, the people who report a problem with IT systems, are themselves not skilled in how basic enterprise technologies work. When a system administrator has to work along with such individuals, they must be able to mold their language in a way that the other persons are able to understand. This also calls upon system administrators to exercise a lot of patience, so that they are able to draw our important information from the end users. This, in turn, can help administrators isolate the potential problem areas and shorten the lifetime of analysis and solution implementation significantly.




Let’s face it – monitoring is a crucial component of a system administrator’s job. Apart from this, system admins need to drive efforts to improve system performance and do so by checking the impact of one set of configurations versus the other. Then, they need to make important decisions around balancing the IT applications’ computing resources need, security considerations, etc. All this requires admins to perform several experiments and tests on non-production systems. Monitoring devices, applications, business processes, and services, apart from everything else, calls for a lot of discipline among system administrators. This is in spite of there being advanced monitoring and reporting tools. The working hours, particularly during upgrades and critical issues, can be taxing, and it’s only with unflinching discipline that admins can truly read monitoring results and take appropriate actions.


Understanding of Procedural and Management Components

Design, delivery, and lifecycle management of IT services is an emerging discipline. ITIL, COBIT, and similar frameworks capture the essence of this discipline. Aligning existing IT practices with the best practices entailed in these frameworks is guaranteed to help an organization achieve its IT and linked (financial and operational) objectives. System admins, particularly, need to be well-versed with the tenets of these frameworks. This helps a system admin to contextualize everything he/she does. These frameworks help administrators understand the vision of the CIO, and assist them in taking tough decisions (from equally feasible and practical options) when the need arises. Understanding of procedural components, adherence to best practices, and appreciation of the basics of project management can truly make a system admin a pillar of the team he/she is a part of.

Communication Skills

A system administrator might not think of this skill as an important one to acquire in the current context of his/her work. However, IT leaders understand how they need to be prepared to promote meritorious candidates internally to higher roles within the same teams. This also means that a system admin who spends most of the working hours in a server room might also be the one transitioning enterprise specific knowledge to new hiree. Showcasing the merits of a new web server upgrade, explaining to a web developer that his method of coding will cause memory leaks, and presenting an idea to managers – all these will happen in the lifetime of a system admin, and sooner than he/she might expect. The best way to be prepared – upgrade your communication and presentation skills.

Concluding Remarks

System administrators are the lifeline of an IT heavy enterprise. These are the people that keep the computing engines in order. They also, of course, need to build upon their existing skills and acquire new ones to keep on adding value to their teams and the organization. The skills and qualities outlined in this guide deserve the attention of any system admin, and the HR and IT management personnel in charge of their skill enhancement.



Author: Rahul Sharma

FileCloud Unveils Enterprise Edition, Deploys Secure Collaboration and Storage for Large Organizations

  • Supports increased need for robust cybersecurity protection and compliance measures
  • Purpose built for organizations with 1000+ users
  • Allows businesses to keep their data on infrastructure of choice including public, private and hybrid clouds

FileCloud, a cloud-agnostic Enterprise File Sharing and Sync (EFSS) platform, today announced the release of FileCloud Enterprise Edition. Designed to enable IT administration, management and compliance across enterprise-level systems with over 1000 users, FileCloud Enterprise Edition simplifies data security in an increasingly cloud-based business environment.

“Managing secure collaborations across enterprise environments is critical and keeps many CIOs awake at night,” said Madhan Kanagavel, CEO of FileCloud. “ With just a few clicks, FileCloud’s Enterprise Edition helps IT administrators configure user settings, integrate branch office file servers, manage policies and deploy apps across any large organization. Innovations like these are the reasons why enterprises prefer FileCloud over other consumer-oriented
collaboration solutions.”

FileCloud solves the challenge of losing control over intellectual property/information assets. Unlike other centralized file Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, FileCloud gives complete control over their data by allowing businesses to keep their data on any infrastructure of their choice including public, private and hybrid clouds. Mobile apps increase productivity and flexibility without needing to worry about data integrity. Shared documents synchronize and can be locked or shared with expiration dates and users can access remotely the same drives that are available in the office.

Enterprise Edition features and services include:

  • Mass Deployment: Deploy and configure a fleet of end user computing devices (desktop, mobile devices, and file servers) in a few click from a centralized management dashboard.
  • Remote Health Monitoring: Includes real-time monitoring of employee devices and actions with a detailed audit trail and delegation capabilities to prevent data loss and detect security threats.
  • Compliance: Enforce policies and regulatory requirements (supports GDPR, HIPPA and FINRA compliance) across employees. Also offers Federated search and eDiscovery capabilities to find sensitive data across the user base.
  • Professional Services: Offers a wide range of technical assistance in implementing large deployments successfully including, deep technical help in designing high availability, branch office integrations, clustering and multi-cloud deployments. Services also can help in configuring Single Sign-On and integrating with other systems like ActiveDirectory.

Penta, a global IT services company with offices in Switzerland, UAE, and Japan, mainly servicing financial institutions has deployed FileCloud to solve a number of business challenges. “One of our biggest challenges as an IT service company is to set up and manage corporate file sharing securely across hundreds of file servers, computers, and mobile phones,” said Shadi Jaber, IT Manager at Penta. “FileCloud has the right features and toolset that makes this easy.”

Many large organizations including Fiserv, NASA, Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property, and the City of San Diego use FileCloud for enterprise file sharing and collaboration. Try for free.

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.


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


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


FileCloud Brings Browser-Based Editing and Coauthoring to On-Premises Microsoft Office Files

FileCloud Microsoft Cloud Storage Partner

We are excited to announce that FileCloud has officially joined the Microsoft Cloud Storage Partner Program. As part of Microsoft’s Cloud Storage Partner Program, FileCloud will enable Office 365 business users to open, edit and save changes to remote Office files stored in FileCloud using a web browser. Importantly, users can co-author and collaborate on documents in real time on Office documents stored in FileCloud from anywhere.

Even today, when we claim ubiquitous Cloud adoption, billions of files are on-premise, behind a firewall. In today’s mobile-first world, employees and customers want to access, edit and collaborate on files from any device. Currently, users can’t remotely co-author or edit  Microsoft Office files that are behind a firewall, unless the organization moves the files to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox, OneDrive.  FileCloud has joined Microsoft Cloud Storage Partner program to integrate with Office 365 to offer a simpler solution. With this integration, users can remotely coauthor and collaborate on Office documents that are even stored behind a firewall.

Since its inception, FileCloud continues to break barriers and offers unique customer choices. FileCloud gives Office customers a seamless experience when working with Office documents regardless of how they are accessed or where they are stored.

“We are excited to be part of the Microsoft Cloud Storage Partner Program and to use the Microsoft Office 365 capabilities for our customers across the globe,” said Madhan Kanagavel, CEO of CodeLathe. “Browser-based editing of Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel files, as well as working simultaneously on a document via co-authoring features of Office 365, will allow our customers to be instantly more productive and will be a great addition to many existing integrations we have developed for Office, including Microsoft Outlook and mobile apps.”

Even when files and workloads are rapidly moving to the cloud, the majority of organizations continue to store significant portions of their data on-premises. FileCloud offers flexible options where customers can pick a storage model (on-premises, the cloud or a hybrid option) that suits their business needs. With this new Office integration, FileCloud brings real-time collaboration and remote co-authoring to any file regardless of where it is stored.

Rob Howard, Director, Microsoft Office Ecosystem at Microsoft Corp. said, “We are excited to have FileCloud’s participation in the Cloud Storage Partner Program to further extend the availability of Microsoft Office 365 to FileCloud’s users. It’s a unique integration that connects FileCloud’s technology directly to Office Online, so that customers have a great experience for reading and editing Office documents stored within their environment.”


Three Ways to Increase Your Office 365 Sales Revenue

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

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

Help in Migration – On-premise to Cloud

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

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

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

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

Become part of Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider Program

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

Offer value added service – Backup

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

Final Thoughts

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

Author: Rahul Sharma



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

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

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

Why is an online presence important?

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

Team up with the right provider

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

Come up with your unique value proposition

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

Choose a target vertical

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

Identify the problems faced by your clients

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

  • Situation questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Rahul Sharma

Image Courtesy: nokhoog_buchachon ,


Can Artificial Intelligence (AI) Enrich Content Collaboration? Or Is It Just a Lipstick?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) enrich Content Collaboration

Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) the new lipstick? Sure, it is being put on many pigs. Can artificial intelligence improve Enterprise File Sharing and Sync (EFSS), Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Collaboration?  We want to explore if we could find some obvious collaboration use cases that can be improved using machine learning. In this article, we will not venture into AI techniques or impact of AI or evolution of AI. We are interested in exploring how EFSS benefits from “machine learning” – a technique that allows systems to learn by digesting data. The key is ‘learning’ – a system that can learn and evolve vs. explicitly programmed.  Machine learning is not a new technology; many applications, such as search engines (Google, Bing), already use machine learning.

In the past year, many large players, such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, have started offering AI tools and infrastructure as service. With many of the basic building blocks available, developers can focus on building right models and applications. Here are a few scenarios in Enterprise File Sharing and Sync (EFSS), and Enterprise Content Collaboration, where we can apply machine learning soon.


Search is a significant part of our everyday life. Google and Amazon have made the search box the center of navigation. For instance, a decade ago, the top half of the Amazon homepage was filled with links, which is now replaced by a search box at the top.  However, search hasn’t taken a significant role in enterprise collaboration, yet. Every day, we search for files that don’t fit in a simple search criteria. Think of search that goes ‘looking for a design proposal from a vendor x I received six months back.’ Today, we manually sort through files to find an image that satisfies the above search criteria.  We could use a simple query processing,  a crawler, and a sophisticated ranker to surface file search results, based on estimated relevance. Such a search feature can continue to learn and improve to provide better results each time. Already, we have many such machine learning algorithms and techniques available to index files, identify relevance, and rank search results per relevance. Hence, applying to enterprise scenarios requires a focused effort from the solution providers.

Predict and organize relevant content

A technique in machine learning, called unsupervised learning, involves building a model by supplying it with many examples, but without telling it what to look for. The model learns to recognize logical groups (cluster), based on certain unspecified factors, revealing patterns within a data set.  Imagine your files are automatically organized, based on the projects you are working on. Any file will have a set of related files just one click away. Won’t such a feature have a significant productivity boost?


Collaboration across different languages will be simplified with many advanced translation tools available today. Google Cloud Translation API provides a straightforward API to translate a string from and to many languages. Translation of user comments and meta data, such as tags, image information, can be very useful for any large organization that involves working with partners and vendors across the globe. With translation combined with machine learning, translation within an enterprise can improve by learning domain knowledge (medical, law, technology etc.) and internal jargon. Systems can extract right meta data, apply domain knowledge, and translate them for employees, partners, and customers, so they easily communicate and collaborate.

User Interface

Interaction with EFSS applications need not be just clicks and texts.  Users can have more engaging user experiences that include conversational interactions, e.g., users could just say “open the sales report that I shared with my manager last week.” Personal assistants, such Siri, Cortana, and Alexa, already provide such conversational interfaces for many personal and home scenarios. Though it sounds complex, some of the technology, such as automatic speech recognition for converting speech to text and natural language understanding, are available in Amazon APIs. Converting the conversation into an actual query might not be as complex as it sounds.

Security and Risk Assessment

Machine learning has an excellent application in monitoring network traffic patterns to spot abnormal activities that might be caused by cyber-attack or malicious activities. Solutions like FileCloud use some of these techniques to identify ransomware and highlight potential threats. Similar techniques can identify compliance risks to analyze if any documents being shared have any personal identifiable information (credit card) PII or personal health information PHI. Systems can predict and warn security risks before the breach happens.

These ideas are just a linear extrapolation of the near future. Even these simple linear extrapolations look promising and interesting. Many predict that, within a few years, almost every device and service will have intelligence embedded in them. In future, the concept of file and folders might be replaced by some other form of data abstraction. As AI and collaboration continue to evolve, resulting applications evolve exponentially better than our linear extrapolations, and our current thoughts could appear naïve. Hope it doesn’t evolve, as Musk puts it, “with artificial intelligence, we’re summoning the demon.”