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What You Need To Tell & Sell To Office 365 CustomersIt seems that industry commentators everywhere have come out in support of Office365, for MSPs, resellers, and end-users alike. In a recent TechTarget Search Cloud Provider piece, for example, one interviewee called it “the single greatest opportunity for MSPs and VARs to enter into the cloud” and “a no-brainer for 99% of customers”.

He goes on: "There are two different categories of MSP and VAR when it comes to Office 365: one that embraces it and one that fights it. Within the fighting group, it's a losing battle … Their customers are getting picked off one at a time."

Sobering stuff. But selling Office 365 is not just about pushing the benefits - there’s money to be made out of its weaknesses, too.

 

Office 365: strengths, benefits, and scary weaknesses

From the end-user perspective, the benefits of Office 365 are legion. Amongst others, it eliminates the need for internal email management, and ensures one consistent environment, no matter how widely distributed the IT infrastructure. Updates happen automatically – so there’s no need for costly, time-consuming manual management of upgrades or patches.

This blog quotes a number of smaller businesses enthusing about the cost benefits of the solution, with one manager saying it costs him “just a few dollars a month per user”, and another projecting “25 to 30 percent cost savings” after transitioning to Office 365.

Seen from the MSP point of view, the benefits are equally persuasive. This piece in Insight.com talks of the budgetary advantages to be had by moving from owning licences (capital expenditure) to subscribing to a service (operational expenditure).

It also emphasises Office 365’s scalability. You pay only for what you use, but what you use can scale up or down based on user count. And then there’s the drastic reduction of hardware and facilities costs, of course...

All good, then. But actually, not. Because Office 365 suffers from some significant weaknesses that put your customers at risk and threaten their reputation.


From weakness to wealth: how partners can monetise Office 365

But the happy news is that, as technology writer Crystal Bedell nails it, partners can “Identify a weakness in the platform and provide customers with a solution” – an approach that she pronounces “profitable” (the partners’ magic word!)

The weaknesses in question relate to known security limitations within the Office 365 solution set. Type “Office 365 vulnerabilities” into Google and you will find no shortage of past security gaps. And although Office365 supposedly boasts integral security, what Microsoft calls “Advanced security for your data” is actually only available in its premium-level E5 plan, as this page shows.

Hardly surprising, then, that many vendors have realised there is demand from partners and end-users alike to extend Office 365’s standard security features.

Spam and virus filtering appears to be an area of concern, with vendors offering “Plus”-type solutions (like the one in this video), rather than trusting to Office 365’s inbuilt defences.

Perhaps most excitingly of all, “sandbox” malware detection developed for Office 365, like this solution, can now monitor the actual behaviour of suspect files in multiple virtual sandbox environments using multiple operating systems.

This effectively turns the tables on the malware, uncovering how it targets different kinds of Office 365 users, before it can actually do so.

 

Tell your customers, sell the solutions

All in all, then, it seems that Office 365 isn’t lacking in security issues – but then it isn’t exactly lacking in solutions that partners can sell to fix them, either!

All you have to do is make sure your customers know about them. So what say you share this blog with them?

BS-RMM

What’s behind the importance of Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tools in the partner universe?

As Techopedia helpfully explains, RMM is the “proactive, remote tracking of network and computer health”, and typically delivers a set of IT management tools that enable technical staff to maintain service delivery more efficiently and productively - like trouble ticket tracking, and remote desktop monitoring and support.

But, inevitably, not all RMM solutions are created equal. So what is it that makes for a RMM tool that keeps your customers happy and your support teams’ productivity keen?

We looked into a number of recent comparative articles and reviews (like this one in Business Solutions and this one in TechTarget’s SearchIT Channel, amongst others) and came up with this (hopefully!) helpful wish-list:

1. Ease of deployment

“The choice you make when selecting RMM software often boils down to the best combination of integration, deployment and automation characteristics”, writes SearchIT Channel’s John Moore, and to my mind, deployment ranks right at the top of this hierarchy.

Why? Because the less you can disrupt your (and, by potential extension, your customers’) business with your RMM deployment, the better.

So look for solutions that can deploy selectively to one device or a group of devices, and to one location or multiple locations, in one smooth movement.

Consider the hardware onboarding, too; automatic provisioning is far less disruptive than manual, but Mobile Device Management (MDM), for example, will need to be cross-platform (iOS and Android) and offer easy enrolment and configuration functions.

Ultimately, you need to be comfortable with the vendor’s and solution provider’s role in all this, too. What sort of hand-holding or on-boarding will you receive during those crucial first few weeks? Is it restricted to self-help online tutorials, or will it follow a structured statement of work delivered by an engineer on a 1-to-1 basis?

And will they offer you any kind of satisfaction guarantee to protect you against the potential infelicities that shifting a hefty slice of your business productivity to a single platform could occasion?

Much of this is driven, in reality, by whether you choose a cloud-based RMM platform or an on-premise one – so shop around for solutions providers who offer options, to enable you to properly balance risk and return.

 2. Asset coverage and management

RMM can’t effectively monitor or manage anything unless it’s pointing to the right sources of information, and has within it the appropriate management tools.

Your RMM solution needs to work tightly with customers’ workstations, servers, printers, routers and mobile devices, but you also need to be able to slice and dice the monitoring and management by whatever criteria suit you best in any particular situation – by OS, by application, by location, and so forth.

The more geographically, technically, and logistically complex your and your customers’ operations, the more beef you need under your RMM bonnet!


3. Usability and minimal training requirements

Whichever kind of RMM you deploy, users have to be able to use it! For partners and MSPs, that’s principally operators in their own organisation (technical support staff, or perhaps, on occasion, account managers) but customers might need access to the solution, too (in a corporate enterprise deployment scenario, for example)          .

Either way, complexity can spell disaster. The Standish Group, a research outfit that tracks corporate IT purchases, has found that complexity is at the root of some 66% of all IT project failures or late deliveries.

Consequently, your RMM solution has to be built on intuitive features that are easy to master, should be able to orchestrate workflows to prevent human error, and must generally reduce the learning curve for the operators.

Look in particular for features like pre-configured groups, searches, templates and schedules, so that your teams don’t have to hand-craft monitoring and corrective routines on a day-to-day basis.

4. Automation

Related to what I said above about training, automation is the secret ingredient in making an RMM solution function effectively out of the box, and therefore enhancing the productivity and customer satisfaction it can deliver.

In any event, insist on pre-loaded monitors and alerts (so that you can go from both proactive and reactive investigation.)

But be wary: you need to get to the bottom of how quickly and precisely you can choose which of the hundreds of automated elements should be ‘on’ and which should be ‘off’. Does it involve cumbersome, costly trawling through countless groups, and individually cherry-picking the elements?

Or is there a more business-driven approach (such as allowing you to selectively turn off, say, all the Exchange or SQL server performance monitors at once, as opposed to their individual constituents?)

In the search for RMM zen, not all automation is nirvana!

5. Remote capability

Of course, none of this really works for your customers at all if your RMM solution’s remote support capability is lacking. If you can’t easily deliver support straight to a user’s screen, you’re not providing much of a service.

In an ideal world, the “stealth” functions of the RMM platform – the ones that enable you to support customers by making helpful changes and adjustments to their machines without them even knowing, and without interrupting their work – rule.

But sometimes, interrupting the user is unavoidable. Whichever situation you find yourself in, prefer a RMM solution with a native remote support capability, rather than a connection to a third-party one.

The former is controllable from within the solution itself, with one click, alongside all the solution’s other functions (the oft-cited “single pane of glass” approach) and will deliver a more seamless support experience to the end-user.

6. Integration capability

Finally, integration looms large on many MSPs’ and resellers’ RMM agendas. The ability to work with a “supporting cast” of existing applications (including security) not only diminishes customers’ operational headaches, it also creates a three-stage virtuous commercial circle.

The RMM solution becomes saleable because it works securely with existing applications sold by the partner, enabling it to potentially add an extra revenue stream to each customer.

New applications become saleable because they can be easily controlled thanks to the RMM solution, enabling the partner to into existing customers.

And for new customers? Rinse and repeat on both counts!

RMM: which solution to choose?

Essentially, it boils down to this: MSPs and resellers don’t know how their markets are going to diversify in the future. They may be selling one kind of service today, tomorrow it could be another, depending on where there’s profit to be made.

But they’ll all be online, they’ll all be remote, and they’ll all bankrupt the partner if they don’t integrate with a RMM solution that helps to transform the burden of keeping the service running into a highly automated – rather than costly manual – process.

One RMM solution to serve them all? Now that would be a great thing to sell.

blue and comptia bannerAre you attending CompTIA EMEA Member and Partner Conference 20th October 2015?

If you haven't yet registered to the Comptia event at 155 Bishopsgate London please go to  https://www.comptia.org/emea/home it would be great to see you there.

Blue Solutions was founded in 2000 with a clear mission: to enable IT channel partners to sell managed services software that would boost recurring revenues, strengthen margins, and clearly differentiate their offerings in a crowded market. As key vendor partners like AppRiver, Bitdefender, Censornet, DataFortress, Malwarebytes, Microsoft, Phish5, Redstor, Symantec, TrendMicro, and many others will testify, we’ve been succeeding at it ever since.

The bottom line of it is we enable our partners to build profitable, regular revenues, by delivering what their competitors can’t – compelling, diverse, scalable managed services, at low cost, that delight their end-users. So if you’re serious about growing your business, don’t miss this opportunity to expand your knowledge and to hear from our vendor and industry experts please feel free to book a time with Barry Atkinson, Emma Wale, Lee Walker or Israel Azumara to discuss Blue Solutions our vendors in more detail.

If you have queries please call 0118 9898 222 and request to speak to any of the names above regarding the event.

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Originally posted by Mary Jo Foley for All About Microsoft on ZDNet

Microsoft is kicking off the rollout of Office 2016 for Windows on September 22, and is adding a new branch updating scheme, similar to the one available for Windows 10.

It's not a big surprise given recent leaks, but Microsoft officials are confirming that the Office 2016 for Windows rollout will begin on September 22.

September 22 is the date when the next version of Office for Windows desktops will be generally available. Office 365 Personal and Home users will be able to start manually installing Office 2016 apps for Windows on September 22 from Office.com. Microsoft will begin pushing out the new Office 2016 apps via automatic updates in October 2015. Those with volume-licensing contracts will be able to download Office 2016 starting October 1 from the Volume Licensing Centre.

Office 2016 for Windows desktops is the full-featured set of Office apps and the successor to Office 2013. Microsoft released an IT/pro preview of Office 2016 for Windows in March and a public preview in May 2015. The new Office suite runs on Windows 7, 8 and 10 PCs, laptops and tablets.

As part of the rollout, Microsoft is making some changes to the Office update model.

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Those with Office 365 ProPlus subscriptions will be able to continue getting monthly feature and security updates. Taking a page from the Windows 10 playbook, Microsoft is calling this monthly updated release the "Current Branch." The next Current Branch release will be September 22 and will include all the new Office 2016 app updates, according to a September 10 blog post explaining Microsoft's rollout plans.

There also will be a new Office 365 Pro Plus Current Branch for Business updating option. This is for business customers and IT pros who may prefer to wait a few months before rolling out new versions or updates to Office for testing purposes.

Similar to Microsoft's new Current Branch for Business updating path for Windows, the Office Current Branch for Business will provide users with "three cumulative feature updates per year," plus monthly security updates, officials said. That means the next Current Branch for Business build of Office 2016 -- which will include the same feature set as the September 22 release, plus four additional months of security updates -- will be out in February 2016, according to today's blog post.

There are relatively few new features in Office 2016 for Windows. Data loss prevention comes to the Office apps with this release. There also are additional document co-authoring capabilities, new "Tell Me" navigation support, integration with Power BI, and more lockdown/rights management capabilities in the new version of Office for Windows.

Microsoft made the Mac version of Office 2016 available to Office 365 subscribers in July. Later this month, Microsoft plans to offer Office 2016 for Mac available to those who prefer to buy a single copy outright.

Microsoft delivers first public preview of Office 2016 for Mac

Microsoft delivers first public preview of Office 2016 for MacMicrosoft has released the first public preview of Office 2016 for Mac, its updated Office suite for Mac OS 10.10 users, which is due out this summer.

Read More

 

 

Update: A few more reader questions and answers about Office 2016 for Windows' coming rollout (delivered via a Microsoft spokesperson):

Q: Will Office 365 Business Premium -- and not just Office 365 users with ProPlus -- automatically get these updates and be serviced via branches?

A: Yes, Business customers will also receive the 2016 apps and will default to the Current Branch. Business Premium customers can choose to move to the Current Branch for Business if they choose to at any time, once available.

Q: Is there going to be an equivalent to Windows 10's Long Term Servicing branch for O365 users who don't ever want to see new features between Office releases?

A: We recommend using the Office 2016 Volume Licensing (MSI) version for customers who want to have Office installed on specialty systems that do not require feature update but can continue to get security update and bug fixes.

Q: If you are an O365 Pro Plus subscriber right now, are you already getting three buckets of updates to the Office apps annually?

A: Current Office 365 ProPlus customers are on the Current Branch today. We will, however, move all ProPlus customers to the thrice-yearly update schedule by moving them to the Current Branch for Business. Customers can choose to remain on the current branch. All updates are delivered via the Office CDN or deployed via the organization's administrator (not Windows Update).

Q: If you are on Current Branch Office 365, are the thrice-yearly updates forced/mandatory -- the way Current Branch updates are on Windows 10?

A: Current Branch can contain feature, security and non-security fixes on a monthly basis. Customers have a choice to stay on a build as long as they choose to but we recommend they update to the latest version in order to take advantage of any new feature and security fixes.

Q: Can those running Office 2016 for Windows preview upgrade directly to RTM version?

A: It depends on how a customer has accessed the Office 2016 Preview.

Commercial Office 365 customers who have accessed the Office 2016 Preview through the First Release program will continue to get the latest updates across their Office 365 workloads, including Office client. If they would like to revert to the production release of Office 2016 when it becomes available, they can uninstall the Office 2016 Preview from programs and features and download the production version of Office 2016 from their My Software page.

Office 2016 Preview for IT Pros and Developers will continue to get the latest updates across their Office 365 workloads, including Office client. If they would like to revert to the production release of Office 2016 when it becomes available, they can uninstall the Office 2016 Preview from programs and features and download the production version of Office 2016 from their My Software page.

Office 365 Consumer Subscribers: If a customer joined the Office 2016 Preview through their Office 365 My Accounts page, they can simply uninstall the Office 2016 Preview from Windows Programs and Features and install the production release of Office 2016 from their My Accounts page. Office 2016 Preview (no Office 365 subscription):

The Office 2016 Preview will expire at Fall 2015 and will enter a reduced functionality mode. Customers will have the option to convert to a paid Office 365 subscription or they may choose uninstall the Office 2016 Preview from Windows and re-install any licensed version of Office that they have.

 

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Originally published by CensorNet

The poor old IT department, if there were ever an Olympic sport where you could count the moments between suggesting that technology could change the world and then having it bite you on the backside by an unruly mob, well, they’d be gold medallists.

Naturally, an IT team is predisposed to focus on the challenges and risks that a BYOD culture can bring, which is not a bad thing.  In the IT world, BYOD makes the world a more complex place rather than a simpler one. A fixed desktop located on an internal network is always going to be simpler to deploy, easier to manage, easier to secure and much easier to monitor. The risks can be easily identified and mitigated.

The problem with Browsers

With a few exceptions, the main browsers tend to be Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox & Safari. The problem arises when every user’s personal device needs its browser software up to date. Take your fixed, standardised, controlled infrastructure away and it’s not quite as easy. Some applications will simply not work on older browser versions or even with specific browsers. The quality of user experience may be compromised if the right browser is not selected. It can be a fickle, inconsistent way of working.

More importantly, not keeping a browser up to date may expose security flaws that place the device and its content at risk. Many have learned that particular lesson the hard way.

Our old nemesis ‘Malware and spyware infection’

The natural by-product of an increasing tech savvy world is that the bad guys are getting smarter and the users are more ‘click-happy’, particularly on mobile devices.

Users are seldom intentionally malicious, although clearly it happens. However it is often more a case of due diligence when time is a constraint. Not all will adopt sensible security protocols to ensure they are free of Trojans and other malicious autobots that might be hiding within what, at the time, looked like a cool free widget or an article containing a part of Kim Kardashian that broke the internet.

In 2013, a study by Alcatel-lucent in 2013 estimated that 11.6 million devices were infected; a number that is simply likely to grow. The fastest growing infection rates was on Android with Windows and Android being the primary operating systems likely to be targeted.

In Wi-Fi we (Don’t) trust

All mobile devices will invariably hop on and off Wi-Fi with reasonable regularity. The bandwidth and access point will play a role in mitigating the risk of contamination. Using unsecured hotspots increases the risk, not only to the user but potentially the corporate network. The bad guys are smart and unsecure access channels are a happy hunting ground. An experiment by Jonny Milliken, Valerio Selis and Professor Alan Marshall proved that an airborne virus could be transmitted via WiFi from router to router and hence from one device to another. The attempts to access precious data are unrelenting on the increase.

Even on-premise WiFi can be problematic. The strength of any WiFi and available bandwidth may well dictate how usable a commercial application is on any given mobile device. It should be remembered that not all devices have the same capabilities when it comes to transmission and reception.

Authentication

The mechanism of accessing corporate applications, network and resources requires a method of authenticating that the user is who they say they are. Inadequate mechanisms open the door to abuse.

Legal constraints

It may not immediately spring to mind, but a business cannot control the peccadillos of its employees. A personal laptop that has been used for social activities that cross legal boundaries is one that can compromise the integrity of the business and all that could entail. Reputation is as much a protected treasure as any other business asset, as is consumer confidence in who they are buying from.

Data loss

The most precious asset of any organisation is data. Sales prospects, agreements, policies, goals, strategies, Financial Information, Shareholder reports, whatever information an organisation has must be kept secure. The ramifications of data loss can be severe. A user’s device can compromise data in a variety of ways and not just from pernicious access. How much and where on a device is corporate data going to reside? What degree of sensitive data can be trusted to be on a specific users’ device? What about access codes? Is a user storing key account details in plain text somewhere? What happens if a device is lost or stolen, can data leakage truly be prevented?

Device control

If the device belongs to a user, do they have complete administration rights over their device? The owner tends to know how to use their device and how to change configurations. One potentially  damaging scenario is if a user decides to jailbreak their own device so they can access areas that companies like Apple would rather they did not. Android also has its challenges, although not exactly open source, it naturally lends itself to modification and user changes, given its Linux roots. There is an ever-growing community that seeks to either legitimately change code or simply break it because it can be broken and compromised.

Application conflict

What a user downloads onto their own device is by and large a matter for them. Some applications however, particularly apps for smartphones and tablets, can interfere with commercial applications. There is no way that an IT department can track and recommend, from the hundreds of thousands of apps available, which ones are suitable or which could cause cross-application contamination i.e. result in sub-optimal performance or use.

Human error

No matter what technology is used, there is no way of avoiding simple stupidity or oversight by human beings. A human interface is a flawed one simply because we make mistakes and because the users own their devices; mistakes will inevitably happen. Human error will always be the one true constant why there is no such state as 100% secure.

From an IT standpoint, BYOD presents a raft of obstacles. They are challenges that can be met but the solutions are not fool proof and an element of risk will always remain.

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Originally published by AppRiver

New Mobile Device Management (MDM) features are coming home to AppRiver Office 365 Plus, including the ability to selectively wipe mobile devices. Selective wipe of mobile units allows an administrator to revoke access to and delete corporate email that has been synced to a device, as well as specific data associated with Office 365 apps on the device, while retaining any unassociated personal data.

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Selective wipe will work across a diverse range of phones and tablets, including iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices and is included at no additional cost for all AppRiver Office 365 Plus plans. The addition of the selective wipe capability and MDM features listed below to the already robust Office 365 Plus arsenal ensures that your Office 365 experience remains easy, effective and affordable

mobile device management 1

Mobile Device Management options include:

Selective wipe

Ability to perform either a full remote wipe of a corporate smartphone or tablet or a selective wipe of Office 365 company data from an employee’s device while leaving any personal data in place.

Conditional access

Set up security policies to ensure that Office 365 corporate email and documents can be accessed only on phones and tablets that are managed by your company and that are compliant with your IT policies.

Device management

Set and manage security policies, such as device-level pin lock and jailbreak or root detection, to help prevent unauthorized users from accessing corporate email and data on a lost or stolen device. 

Mobile Device Management Options introduced to AppRiver Office 365 Plus

Cloud-based management for devices that run on iOS (iPhone, iPad), Android and Windows Phone will be supported and the roll out for these capabilities will be completed in 4-6 weeks. All features will be included with all AppRiver Office 365 Plus and bundle licenses.

Contact our Sales Team today on  0118 9898 222 to find out more about Office 365

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The managed service best practice offerings template is intended to provide a list of the most common offerings that are currently being deployed by newly formed managed service practices.

The list has been developed based on the experience of IPED consultants, research conduct with numerous channel partners and direct discussions with partners that have successfully built an MSP practice. Although the customer offerings vary from MSP to MSP, most of the solution providers that have built a successful MSP practice have started their practice with one or more of a variety of managed services.  You can read the CompTIA Managed Service Best Practice Offerings study here.

Need more help with finding the right solutions for your MSP business? Call our sales team today on 0118 9898 222.

 

 

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Article by Josh Preston, Service Design Program Manager, LabTech Software

Now that you understand how switching from break-fix to managed services can flip the switch on your business success, you’re ready to start capitalizing on the benefits of managed services.

Your first step is to determine which services you’d like to provide as part of your managed services offering. A great source to help you make this decision is your existing customers. Here are a few ways to get better in tune with your market:

Ask Questions

Asking your existing customers about their specific pain points and what services they need will provide strong signals on what direction you should take. Start with a customer satisfaction survey about what services customers would like to see in the future or schedule a one-on-one meeting with some of your top clients.

Look at Recurring Trends

Check time logs and past billings to find trends in frequently requested tasks that can be included in your SLA. If you’re seeing recurring requests around patching, antivirus updates, malware removal or PC tune-ups, then you know just where to start.

Study the Market

Read up on market research to help identify key opportunity areas. Check out industry insight like CompTIA’s Trends in Managed Services report. A keen examination of industry data can shine a light on the most commonly outsourced IT services and can also help you understand what drives client decisions.

Check Out the Competition

Attend user groups and start interacting with your peers. When like-minded professionals come together in a non-competitive environment, you can discuss issues specific to your shared experiences. Participants can network and benefit from shared best practices.

Once you’ve got a handle on what your market needs most and you understand more about why businesses are outsourcing, you’ll be perfectly positioned to meet their specific needs. You can build out a plan for your managed services based on what will make you most valuable to your clients.

This is just step one in your transition to managed services. Join us next for a look at your next step, assessing your skills and filling in the gaps.

Want to know more about LabTech Software? Contact our Product Manager Jonatan Bucko on 0118 9898 210 for more information today.

StorageCraft_LOGO_HORZ_4CNewStorageCraft's Headstart Restore is part of the StorageCraft Recoverability solution, providing effective disaster recovery for businesses.

Watch this short video on how  Headstart Restore works:

Call our team today on 0118 9898 222 for more help with disaster recovery solutions and the StorageCraft Recoverability solutions.