About The Author: Phil Keenan

President
Phil has over 30 years of experience in telecom and unified communications. With his deep experience building innovative channels to market, Phil directs strategy to deliver high value, partnerships and solutions.

Security, SMB

SMBs Ready to Embrace Managed Security Services

Security, SMBSmall and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) have traditionally not been keen on outsourcing for a few reasons, but a sea change is occurring for SMBs when it comes to security and technology. Businesses using managed services to handle security needs have to hand over mission-critical control of their network infrastructures to service providers. A rising number of SMBs are electing to do this and more.


In-House Security Losing Steam

While managed security was initially popular with enterprises hoping to simplify and coordinate security across multiple locations, it is looking more and more attractive to one- and two-location business owners who realize these threats are indiscriminate in who they target.

 

With new security threats churning out at a fever pitch, it is almost impossible to stay relevant with security in-house. Even with just one location, adequate security needs to consider firewall management, intrusion detection, malware detection, compliance requirements, email encryption, user authentication, and, most importantly, active monitoring.

 

According to a study cited in CIO, 40% of businesses are using part time employees to manage their security. That is alarming. This setup compromises effective monitoring and cuts down on time to detect attacks from 24/7 to someone not even on the clock 9-5. The level of scrutiny and speed of reaction need to be looked at if you want to take your network security seriously. Outsource to a provider that guarantees around-the-clock monitoring in the service level agreement. Employees do not come with SLAs.


Security Specialization

The number and variety of security threats facing businesses today require true specialization to conquer. Although enterprise businesses led the charge for managed security, there is a multi-dimensional landscape of security concerns that affect businesses of all sizes. Skills and time are at a premium, and a greater number of business owners are finding security is not a piece of their business they want to gamble on.

What is your peace of mind worth? MicroCorp can connect you with a portfolio of managed security providers to find the right fit for your customer’s security vulnerabilities.

As the Channel Shifts, We Grow

In the wake of the CenturyLink/Level 3 acquisition, MicroCorp is uniquely positioned to succeed as no other master agent can.

The number of significant mergers and acquisitions that have dominated Channel news over the last year have some partners wondering what the future brings. Here at MicroCorp, we are working closely with the impacted providers, and leveraging our deep, tenured relationships and experience to chart a certain and protected course for our partners.

When CenturyLink completes its acquisition of Level 3 later this year, we will be one of the few top master agents from a billing base and sales perspective, and number one in terms of support and experience. They have recognized MicroCorp by awarding us the coveted Diamond level status and all the benefits and status associated with that. The combination of our strategic relationships with both companies will lead to a position in the newly combined company that is second to none.

As we anticipate certain elements of the Level 3 channel program to influence the new CenturyLink forward, it’s worthy to note MicroCorp’s significant growth with Level 3 over the last two years. At Channel Partners, Level 3 recognized MicroCorp’s achievements in 2016 as follows:

  • Achieved the largest single sale award of 2016
  • Won MVP each and every quarter in 2016
  • Won MVP for all 2016 and 2015
  • Earned and maintained Elite partner status for 10 years
  • Participant in Level 3’s advisory board as the voice of our partners

Relationships are everything.
Over the years we have developed and maintained multi-threaded relationships not only with the Channel Chiefs and executive staff, but with folks on the ground level of each provider. Our partners benefit from these time-tested relationships to provide the best possible experience for their customers that reflects in their own brand promise.

As a member of the advisory boards for both CenturyLink and Level 3, we are actively in touch with providers’ executives and service delivery teams, representing the needs of our partners, and getting early visibility of strategy and direction that will affect our partner base. We are often the sounding boards for new products and services, and the first to test new programs and processes. And we make sure our partners benefit from our unique position with these suppliers.

What do our partners get out of working with MicroCorp?

As our partners contemplate what the future landscape of the Channel looks like after the CenturyLink/Level 3 acquisition, consider MicroCorp’s position:

  • Partners can be sure to receive the best pass through commissions as MicroCorp receives the highest commissions in the industry based on our expected continued performance.
  • We will be a trusted advisor to the company, helping to make sure our partners’ needs are met and we are getting early visibility to future direction.
  • The Agent Alliance is the largest sales channel in the industry and is highly influential with the leading providers. It has long-term and extremely successful relationships with CenturyLink. MicroCorp is a founding member and chairing the Alliance for the next two years. Our partners can be sure that they are further protected by the Alliance, going over and above what MicroCorp brings.
  • Navigating a complex bid through these organizations has its nuances, and it’s an art form MicroCorp has perfected. We have done this repeatedly for years, and our operations support process for CenturyLink and Level 3 are the very things that built MicroCorp’s strong support foundation.

From a leadership, sales, education, and support standpoint, we are ready to help partners launch full steam ahead with their CenturyLink/Level 3 business. Call us today to find out how we can help you succeed.

Hacker

Preparing for Today’s Generation of Ambitious Hackers

HackerOnline businesses are increasingly improving against their brick-and-mortar counterparts. With this success, however, has come a whole new threat: the rise of a cyber attacker who isn’t showing much restraint, even for the biggest targets.

Hacker Ambition on the Rise

In just the last couple years, hackers have been seen going after targets that even five years ago might have been unthinkable. While retail store breaches were standard fare, new cyber attackers pursued online banks, and some evidence suggests that hackers may have even targeted the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, though to what extent is unclear.

The growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) has emboldened some hackers, who in another incident used connected devices as part of a massive botnet of semi-autonomous connected devices to engage in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that shut down websites.

Surprising Weaknesses Appear

Perhaps the good news in the current hacking-filled environment is that it reveals just how insecure networks really are. Stolen credentials are only the beginning, and lower-tech attacks do plenty of damage as well. Business email compromise–essentially just highly-targeted phishing operations–caused $3 billion in losses over three years, according to Symantec.

More Cloud, More Problems

Perhaps worst of all, companies are contributing to their own downfalls through everyday business processes. The growth of the IoT is putting more potential points of access into play, and many of these are poorly secured thanks to a faulty perception that a connected device is a low-value target. The device itself may be, but the network that it’s connected to is of much higher value.

Symantec’s reports were grim on this front as well; attacks on IoT devices doubled throughout 2016, and at the worst of it, there was one attack every two minutes on an IoT device. Increased movement to cloud-based systems was likewise bringing out fresh targets of opportunity for hackers.

Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty…Online

So what can be done? Proper security must be observed at every turn, even when doing so seems inconvenient or cumbersome. Furthermore, the tools to protect security must be improved; after all, tools that cause as many problems as they prevent aren’t worth using.

Tools like those found at MicroCorp can be a great start toward a process of continuous security improvement, helping users better protect systems against outside intrusion. It’s a project that requires everyone’s cooperation, from the end user to the security developer, and one that makes us all safer. For more information about how MicroCorp can help secure your business, contact us today.

Cloud Technology Provides Opportunity for Data Centers to Reorganize

The days of major data center expansion are numbered. That’s what a recent survey by 451 Group’s Uptime Institute indicates may be the result of increasing traffic in the cloud. Companies are no longer stretched thin at their data centers, but are instead looking for ways to reorganize them now that the cloud is relieving storage space problems.

The survey included a variety of executives from traditional enterprise companies, including IT directors and facilities managers from retailers, banks, and manufacturers. Here are some of the key findings about how data centers are being impacted by increasing cloud software and storage investments:

The shrinking isn’t proportional: The expansion of cloud technology and investment in software in the cloud has resulted in companies feeling a bit of relief in their data centers. Storage options available in the cloud mean that IT departments may experience a little less push to keep expanding data storage. In most cases, however, this relief is not experienced at the same pace that cloud investment is growing.

Capacity planning is still a big investment: Almost half of the respondents responsible for facilities were working on upgrading infrastructure, cooling infrastructure, and improving power availability as part of their capacity planning strategy.

New data centers are still springing up: 30 percent of respondents were involved in plans to build new data centers.

Getting more out of existing data centers: While many companies are using third-party vendors to handle increasing demand for data storage, they are also focusing on improving support for existing on-site systems. An IT director is no longer seeking out a $50 million investment in a data center, but is instead asking for smaller amounts to improve the data center that’s there. In most cases, it’s turning out to be easier to get approval for investments in supporting and protecting the legacy technology.

IT teams work with various solutions to handle demand for storage: The survey revealed that 40 percent of respondents will work to consolidate servers in the next year and 33 percent will deploy additional workloads to the cloud. Thirty-three percent of respondents say they will update or upgrade their existing physical infrastructure.

While the cloud provides solutions for a wealth of processing and storage challenges, companies are recognizing the need for continued investment in on-site resources. Cloud storage provides much-needed relief for over-stretched data centers and allows IT teams to focus on improving support and security for their legacy systems.

Want to know more about how cloud is affecting the data center? Check out MicroCorp’s Data Center Market Report library for industry expertise.

To learn more about how the cloud is impacting the IT practices of individual companies like yours, talk with our specialists at MicroCorp, experts in cloud, connectivity, and communications.

Reasons Your Technology Will Never Be Exclusively in the Cloud

It’s a nice picture, imagining all your software needs handled by one neat cloud service. In that picture, your team works without the encumbrance of hardware and your updates never interrupt anyone’s processing. You pay your monthly support and subscriptions, but are never forced to face a board of directors in a tight, itchy suit to get approval for a monstrous new software implementation.

The picture is nice, but it’s likely a corporate fairy tale. There are plenty of reasons why the idea of a cloud-only software environment is probably never going to be a reality:

Getting access: One of the key barriers to an exclusively cloud environment is the need for employees to be able to access applications. Even if every application is housed in the cloud, you’ll still need a way to get to your software and a way for your IT team to govern which team members are authorized to access each application.

Lifecycles of certain products: If you work in an industry in which products have a short lifecycle, it may seem that it’s just a matter of time before everything is in the cloud. On the other hand, when you consider a product like insurance, for example, you can see that on-site systems will be necessary for a policy that was created decades ago in an on-premises mainframe.

Security: The security of cloud software is often debated, but some aspects of the security issue aren’t related to whether cloud technology can protect your data. Some security discussions are about the possession of information and its legal, physical and virtual location according to regulations. IT professionals in the financial, banking, and legal industries must tread carefully when they consider cloud-based applications. There’s good reason to believe that some industries will never embrace cloud solutions because it would compromise legality.

Lock-in: Enterprises are often wary of the idea of locking in with a particular provider of cloud services. Even though cloud technology comes with agility and flexibility, it still requires an investment of time and money to implement a new application. As a result, companies are reluctant to partner with a single cloud services provider in a way that may prevent them from adopting other software that they need to optimize productivity or reduce costs.

To determine how to implement the best possible mix of cloud and on-site software for your company, talk with our consultants at MicroCorp. We can help you identify the applications that are a good initial choice for cloud software to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

Preparing for the Next Generation of Security Intelligence

Are you familiar with security intelligence? If not, you should be. Here’s what you need to know about this growing data-gathering activity that will protect your digital assets from cyber criminals.

Introducing a New Kind of Intelligence

Since cyber threats continue to increase regardless of how sophisticated cybersecurity software gets, governments and businesses are turning to the next phase of defense — intelligence gathering. This solution involves collecting huge amounts of actionable information on cyber threats, then using big data tools to protect organizations from outside threats.

Time and Cost Efficiency Factors

IT teams should not go overboard chasing intelligence if it’s not helping the company. Security intelligence is meant to enhance security systems, not replace them. If a company devotes too much time and money to this data collection process, they may lose focus on what the business is really about — which is making money, not spending money. The key is to synchronize big data tools when necessary to guard against dangerous attacks.

Modern malware can hide for many weeks in a network before it initiates damage. It can be prevented using machine learning strategies that predict disasters. Detailed intelligence will help companies determine the safety of their existing protection.

Cyber Myths

Before venturing into big data collection, you should be aware that many myths surround intelligence gathering in the digital world. It’s not designed to predict presidential elections, military outcomes, or the stock market. Many people may assume too much from the word “prediction.” What this intelligence does is bring together the most relevant data on cyber threats so that analysts can quickly make determinations on avoiding disasters.

In recent years, a majority of North American and European businesses have been victimized by cyber crime in some form. As much as the government is working to crack down on cyber criminals, all it takes is one attack to wipe out a business. The Internet of Things and expanding interconnectivity of devices are creating increased vulnerabilities.

Perhaps the biggest cyber-myth of all is when companies believe that simply installing firewalls and doing routine screening for bugs will be sufficient protection against cyber threats. Adding security intelligence will help businesses gain more confidence in their protection from cyber crime moving forward.

Conclusion

Firewalls, ransomware protection, and other security solutions can be maximized when using data collection and analysis software that predicts cyber attacks. The reason governments and corporations are adding security intelligence to their systems is because they anticipate cyber crime to escalate in the coming years. Contact us to learn more about how MicroCorp can strengthen your defense against cyber crime and improve profitability.

Expanding Data Center Trend Continues

The data center industry continues its rapid growth in 2017 to meet the storage demands of existing robust cloud providers. At the same time, the vacancy rate of U.S. data center space is 4.6%, according to real estate brokerage firm CBRE. Even though tightness remains for server capacity, there is still much more data center development on the way.

Geography of Expansion

Most of the construction going on in 2017 for new data centers is in Northern Virginia, which is expected to add 121 MW of power. Other key places for larger data space include the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Silicon Valley in California. According to CBRE, about 271 MW of capacity is being built in big metropolitan areas, of which 160 MW is under construction without signed leases from vendors.

Will Expansion Pay off for Cloud Providers?

Data facility owners are expected to do well in 2017 in terms of a balance between supply and demand, according to real estate experts. It appears to be a positive move for modern data centers that can offer a multitude of cloud and managed services. As owners of traditional data centers move into outsourced data centers, the door will be opened for more vacant facilities to be sold.

In 2016, data center asset sales reached $1.78 billion with an average price per square foot of $275. Acquisitions that had not yet closed by the end of the year included Equinix’s purchase of Verizon data centers in the Americas and CenturyLink’s proposed acquisition of BC Partners and Medina Capital. Data facility owners with the greatest potential to capitalize on rising demand for network connectivity and pricing are those in heavily populated areas.

What Expansion Means for IT

The IT industry is challenged by tight budgets and limited space. That puts IT firms in a position to make one of three choices, according to CenturyLink:

  1. Construct a new facility
  2. Upgrade an existing data center
  3. Outsource with a trusted provider

The key factor in choosing what to do to meet growth challenges will be for IT companies and the businesses they serve to evaluate costs together. The increasing emphasis among businesses on big data and analytics is part of what’s fueling this steady expansion. Other reasons for this growth include:

  • Demands to replace outdated technology
  • The trend toward globalization
  • Mergers and acquisitions, and spinoffs that require more space
  • Increasing interest in more disaster recovery server space

Conclusion

MicroCorp has been supporting MSPs, VARs, and agent partners for over 30 years. If you’ve run out of server space or need a more efficient data center solution, contact us to learn how we can accommodate your technology needs.

How to Start the Security Discussion

It’s the last thing most partners want to talk about because it’s the topic they are the least familiar with, but as security evolves, it becomes impossible to avoid.

Customers want to discuss security, and for good reason. The cyber landscape is changing for individual users, giant corporations, and governments alike. Partners need to understand why customers are interested in security and be able to have a discussion with them about protecting networks. But how do you talk to your customer about a topic outside your wheelhouse? There are a few tactics to take.

Don’t try to onboard it all.
For partners to be relevant in the year (and years) ahead, they need to transform their main expertise into new areas, and you cannot train your way there. The landscape is changing so quickly — by the time you’ve trained yourself and your team on something like security, it’s evolved further. It is more worth partners’ time to connect with experts in order to broaden their own expertise.

Partner with purpose.
Our Team Alliance Program (TAP) was designed with these problems in mind: partners want to be able to speak to all customer issues, but don’t have the time or resources to become experts in every field. TAP allows partners to connect with experts in cloud, security, SD-WAN, and other technologies to get in on the knowledge while maintaining relationships with customers. The program is an ecosystem for education and partnership that will help you stay successful as technologies change.

In the end, it’s about trust.
You are your customer’s trusted advisor, so it’s important to maintain that level of credence. Acquiring a customer is the largest cost your business incurs — better to keep the ones you have. Partnerships with experts can help you stay relevant for your customers and devote time to maintaining your relationships with them. And that means that the future of the partner will be more about customer service than anything else.

These themes can apply to not just security, but multiple other technologies and systems that befuddle the partner. Take advantage of TAP and the MicroCorp’s ecosystem of experts to be the partner your customers want to keep.

Teaming- An Agent Survival Strategy

team-keenan2MicroCorp President, Phil Keenan, on the benefits of Agent Teaming

If you don’t know the term ‘autocatalytic’, it might be time to look it up.  Simply put for our industry, it means that the more technology is deployed, the faster technology solutions change.  Knowing what the term means is more than just a dinner party talking point to impress your fellow guests. You really need to know what impact it is going to have on your business.

The role of the channel (or in our world, Agents, VARs and MSPs) is changing.  As technology goes autocatalytic, customers are struggling to keep up technically and they then turn to the channel to help as their trusted advisor – and you in turn are struggling to keep up. This means it is harder and harder to be a trusted advisor.  This complex dynamic is further exacerbated by the fact that customers are looking for complete solutions that require specific domain expertise in multiple areas.  The time when you could do everything on your own is going away and it is going away fast.  So what do you do to protect your customer relationships and sustain your business over the coming years?

Well, option one is to hire your way to trusted advisor status. An admirable ambition but fraught with working capital, cash flow and borrowing requirement land mines.   Not to mention how hard it is to hire ‘good’ people.

Option Two is to embrace the plethora of training courses available from manufacturers, service providers or industry bodies and cross train your existing folks.  Well, training simply cannot build up years of expertise overnight and it is a bit like painting the Golden Gate Bridge.  As soon as you finish, you have to start again because technology has moved on at such a pace you are already dated.  In fact the rate of our autocatalytic industry is already so fast that you would have to start painting before you have even finished.  In the words of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch,  “when I was a lad I used get up for work four hours before I went to bed…”

So You Think You are so Smart

SySmartIn my mind neither of the above are viable options unless you are a multi-million dollar company with significant financial resources.  There has to be a better way.  And there is.   The answer is to participate in an ecosystem where you team to provide complete solutions.

“You think you are so smart” I hear the masses shout,  “This has been tried before and it doesn’t work!” In my mind the reason this hasn’t happened industry wide is because the ecosystem has lacked what it takes to build momentum and scale.  Unless an ecosystem has enormous compelling advantage then it doesn’t take off.  Apple Store and Play Store are great examples of where an ecosystem has enormous and obvious advantage and so the forces of laissez faire prevail, but if you don’t have this you have to support an ecosystem with real structure to solve the problems of getting it off the ground.

It’s all about the money

In our world what do channel partners worry about that get in the way of joining an ecosystem?  Well at the end of the day it is all about the money, because it is always all about the money.  But there is more to it than just that.  After 30 years (jeez!) of running worldwide channel organizations I have distilled the reasons down to the following:allaboutmoney

  • Money, Money, Money
    • How much do I get paid
    • Do I get paid enough to be worth my time
  • Protection
    • How do I ensure that I continued to get paid in the event of a business relationship dissolving
    • How do I protect my customer relationships if I bring in another party
    • How to I protect my employees and confidential information when teaming
  • Support
    • How are my customer’s solutions supported

Address these issues and the ecosystem has a real chance of growing simply because it is needed.  It is the only way this conundrum can be solved.

Enter Team Alliance Program

The Team Alliance program addresses these issues head on.  Prescribed commission splits, contracted rules of engagement coupled with non-solicitation and confidentiality provisions allow partners to team in confidence.

Underpinned with TotalCare365 support and a directory of experts to pull from, the program provides everything you need to provide complete solutions in confidence, protect your customer relationships and create new revenue streams into the future.