Category: Channel

How do you build a WAN for your customers that can function today but scale for tomorrow?

How to Build the WAN that Can Take on Tomorrow

How do you build a WAN for your customers that can function today but scale for tomorrow?Building a wide-area network (WAN) isn’t as easy as plugging in a few cables and routers. It’s a safe bet that someone’s asked you about what to consider when building a WAN by now, because you’ve been working hard to establish yourself as an expert. So when your customers start asking you about a WAN, you’ll have an idea ready to go of what to keep in mind, and how you can fill that need.

In years past, the WAN was about connecting sites to other sites and work stations to other sites. As technology delivery models evolve, and cloud and mobility solutions become more widespread, it is more critical than ever to stay connected to those applications, see the health of your connections in real time, and be able to change at the speed of businesses today.

What Should I Keep in Mind When Building a WAN?

Keep these in mind to prevent the need for costly replacements and upgrades as long as possible. Basic design principals include resilient connectivity, visibility into the network, security, flexibility to make changes, and agility to add new sites rapidly.

Basic design. Some parts of the WAN are so basic they should be first off the bat.

  • Discovering new elements. Proper WAN architecture can determine quickly and effectively when new components are added to the network. This helps later in expansion or replacement if something goes wrong.
  • Performance measures. Establish means early on to measure network throughput, bandwidth, and latency. When you’ve done this, you’ll be better able to tell the difference between a network that’s slow because something’s wrong, or a network that’s slow because it wasn’t designed for the level of use it’s seeing. Having tools to analyze this data is critical to ensure optimal performance of applications running over the WAN.

The overall environment. The next point to consider is the overall environment, and how this new network fits into that. Design the network around your environment, not your environment around a clunky inflexible solution.

  • Current use levels. No one wants a network that’s already underpowered when it goes online. Consider your current staffing levels, the existing applications the network will run, and current access requirements to make sure what you’re building will even work with today’s needs.
  • Future use levels. With today’s demands in hand, start immediately looking at tomorrow’s. Look at likely future applications—especially those that are already planned—and immediately planned changes to staffing and use levels. Consider deliberately overbuilding to provide some future wiggle room.

How Do I Get Started Building the Best WAN?

Keeping these points in mind will go a long way toward designing a great WAN, and when it comes to making that design real, start by getting in touch with us at MicroCorp. With a wide range of partnerships across several key areas, we can help take that construction plan and make it a reality. Just drop us a line to get started.

How does a partner ecosystem improve your business?

How a Partner Ecosystem Can Move Your Digital Transformation Goals

How does a partner ecosystem improve your business?Digital transformation is one of the greatest goals of many companies today, and though its ultimate form may look different, it’s still one of the biggest single-direction pushes around. Thus, companies are putting a lot of resources and investment behind such development. What if, however, there were a way to achieve digital transformation without the enormous expense? It may be as simple as the use of a partner ecosystem.

What Is a Partner Ecosystem?

A partner ecosystem is a group of firms that have decided to partner, to work together, in pursuit of common interests. These partners—some of which are even competitors—might do such things as share innovations or create mutually-interoperable systems to become part of a larger-scale ecosystem.

How Can a Partner Ecosystem Help Advance Digital Transformation?

A partner ecosystem can deliver value on several fronts to improve the pace to digital transformation.

Less concurrent development. Instead of having five companies spend huge amounts of research and development capital trying to invent the same thing, some have found that it’s better to let one company focus on one point, while someone else focuses on another. The result is a partner ecosystem that’s developing the same project, but different parts.

Greater focus in development. Major companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google have all been putting partner ecosystems to work for some time now, using open-source libraries to both contribute to and derive insights from them. By working in a partner ecosystem, while there’s some giving away of insights and development, there’s also plenty of receipt, allowing companies to stop trying to reinvent the wheel and instead take advantage of what’s already known.

Improved supply operations. While ecosystem partners have long been counted on in terms of supply and demand, partner ecosystems provide improvements to the supply chain by opening up the individual data silos that companies represent, and allowing everyone to take advantage of the information contained within. A major example of supply technology improved by partner ecosystems is blockchain, which allows every company in the ecosystem to share data and verify what’s going on.

Partner ecosystems allow you to address technology outside your wheelhouse.Partner ecosystems can enable you to provide a complete solution for your customers even if you lack the expertise in a particular area. For example, if you need to provide infrastructure, having a trusted IaaS expert in your ecosystem allows you to become the trusted resource for your customer while working with your expert colleague in the background.

How Do I Get Started Using a Partner Ecosystem in Digital Transformation?

If you’d like to take advantage of what a partner ecosystem can do for you, then all you need to do is get in touch with us at MicroCorp. We have a complete ecosystem community we call the Solutions Alliance that brings together agents and other independent providers to help you move along the path to digital transformation.

Digital transformation can take business to the next level, but it must begin with the right foundation.

Internal Networks: The Right Foundation for Digital Transformation

Digital transformation can take business to the next level, but it must begin with the right foundation.No one puts up a building without first considering its foundation. Whether it’s a concrete slab, reinforced concrete over a basement, or even just a level patch of ground, what you build a building on is just as important as what you do it with. While plenty of businesses these days are considering digital transformation strategies—and with good reason—there’s a lot to do before then, and that means a great opportunity for those looking to supply businesses with the right foundation for digital transformation.

What Should Businesses Know about Preparing for Digital Transformation?

Current phase of growth. Businesses must consider just where they are already in the overall market space in order to determine where to transform to. A December study from CompTIA found that most businesses are currently in the process of transformation to either a moderate or high degree, and that’s going to fundamentally impact just what kind of digital work should take place.

Ultimate goal of growth. Businesses also need to consider where they’re ultimately growing to. Businesses considering a more consultant-style role will need different growth points than those considering a recurring-revenue model. The ultimate goal of the digital transformation requires different elements to reach.

Complexity of current operations. Some may even be considering a digital transformation to address issues of complexity. If complexity is the primary driver behind growth, it too will require new elements. Very few businesses are already seeing business get less complex, which prompts key insights about overall growth.

Profitability of growth. That earlier-mentioned CompTIA study had one common element: all surveyed were most concerned about leaks in profit margin. Being able to present information and projections about the profitability of a digital transformation track can be a significant help in overcoming objections and driving further development.

How Can I Help Businesses Get Ready for Digital Transformation?

Building your foundation to help other businesses get ready for digital transformation starts by getting in touch with us at MicroCorp. We can help you get the right tools that you’ll need, thanks to our status as a master agent for a substantial lineup of firms. With us in your corner, you can offer your clients the tools they’ll need to get their foundation started.

Partners can collaborate in an educational ecosystem at Ultimate Partner Training.

Get Inside UPT: A Day by Day Account

Have you ever wondered what Ultimate Partner Training is really like? Two MicroCorp Strategic Partner Managers — David Burgeson and Monica Lester — journaled their experiences during UPT last year to give you a taste. Read their real-time, day-by-day accounts to get a feel for what’s in store this year for partners!

Day One:

David:
We kicked off Ultimate Partner Training today, and the classroom is full of attendees from all over the country. The excitement and desire learn about the data center, colocation and security businesses is off the charts! The talent among this group is clearly evident for best practices, and new ideas are being shared as partners are forging new relationships. Looking forward to a great Day 2.

Monica:

As a trusted advisor to many MicroCorp partners, I made the commitment to invest in my own data center and cloud computing education by spending a week engaged at Ultimate Partner Training. It’s day 1, and already I can feel the energy and enthusiasm to learn and succeed in this space of technology from everyone. Looking forward to diving in to the history and evolution of technology, and learning how to assist my partners even better in this space. We will all be chanting, “I love data center” once we see the ROI from our training investment. 

Day Two:

David:

AM session

Day 2 started with Todd Smith presenting on the various business and pricing models within data center providers. Whether the business model is wholesale, retail or both, Todd Smith emphasized that properly negotiating power, space and cooling costs is a must between the customer and provider.  

Paul Carrico continued the training to cloud where everything is “as a Service”: Hosting-aaS, Infrastructure-aaS, Software-aaS, Platform-aaS, and Infrastructure-aaS. When architecting a solution for a public, private, hybrid or hyper-converged solutions, scoping the right requirements is a must. Client engagements begin with what applications are they using and why. 

PM session

Cyrus One, VxChnge, Cologix, Telstra, Level 3 and Greenhouse Data are sitting on the Hot Seat Panel. Tough questions from the audience! Usually providers talk about their strengths, but a question was asked what their weaknesses are. I can’t go into detail here but it was rather interesting.

Scott Kelly with Windstream is now talking about SD-WAN, and he says “All roads lead to the cloud:  Rapid growth in data, apps and connected ‘things’.” 

Some great things about SD-WAN:

  • Money to be made with SD-WAN:  $6B by 2020 per IDC.
  • Gives complete visibility
  • Real-time control
  • Plug and Play ability
  • Active/active connectivities
  • Any type of access
  • Scalable
  • Goal of 100%

But the realities are that SD-WAN:

  • Will not replace MPLS
  • Cannot guarantee QoS
  • Is not WAN optimization

Monica:

Not all data centers are created equally. Today I gained a better understanding of the differentiators amongst our data center providers. Telstra, Cologix, Xchange, Greenhouse Data, Level 3, CyrusOne….just to name a few from our line card. Now I am empowered to help my partners better in matching the right provider for their clients. A fun fact I learned was the least expensive data center space can be found in Quincy, Washington. Why? Lowest cost for power at 3.5 cents!!! 

Day Three

David

AM session

A contest for How to Frame Questions and Team 5  is in the lead. This is proving to be harder than it appears….Teams 3 and 4 are catching up.

Jeff, founder of Bigleaf now talking about SDWAN. The SDWAN market is getting crowded with providers trying to position themselves uniquely. Jeff says get out of speed and feeds discussion, but what are the applications?

He says — though SDWAN is causing different conversations about MPLS, MPLS was disrupted by the data center and cloud. SD-WAN and network security are inter-related. To stay relevant, SD-WAN and security must be part of any technology conversations.

The agent channel has a great opportunity to be the trusted advisor for their clients with SD-WAN and to make money on it.

PM session

Windstream is doing a live demo of their SD-WAN service. The management portal is collecting data on everything and touching their network. 11+ Android devices are hitting a non-productive website. He just disconnected a circuit while on a live VoIP call, and the failover was seamless. This is a must-have for customers who run a lot of apps on the cloud.

Monica:

We have reached the topic of SD-WAN, presented by Bigleaf! This segment is most important to maintain my relevance in the marketplace. With the movement to the cloud, an alternative for MPLS was desired, and SD-WAN allows us to build a solid network to many locations, hosting vital applications and enhancing effectiveness. I endorse Bigleaf as a solid provider — they go the extra mile for my partners to help them gain comfort with this new technology and will do the heavy lifting to provide the solutions to the end-users. 

 Day Four

David:

Just completed our team role-playing competition based on actual customer situations. Each team consisted of 3 attendees and there are 6 teams. The objective was to dig for information from the judges and apply what we learned to identify SDWAN, data center, colo, security, hosting, and cloud applications. We are awaiting to see which team won. 

This was the most interactive training ever. Thoroughly enjoyed the people here.  As we conclude UPT, the spirit of partnership is alive and well. Relationships matter!

 Monica:

It’s the last day of UPT, and it’s the first training of my career where I can walk away feeling as though I have the knowledge, resources, excitement, and hunger to aggressively help my partners tackle this segment of the market and succeed in new revenue in the DC space.

Today was a competitive day where we displayed selling skills coupled with knowledge gained on solutions in a real-world customer scenario. As part of Team 5, we came in 2nd place. Practice and experience leads to success in all aspects of life. The practice I’ve learned from UPT is priceless, and — not to mention — what a great group of folks to spend my week with!

Contact MicroCorp today to learn more about Ultimate Partner Training.

Being a part of an educational ecosystem is the best way to ensure ongoing sales.

Channel Partners: Learning Leads to Selling

Being a part of an educational ecosystem is the best way to ensure ongoing sales.Every sales rep has a go-to tool to help make sales. Maybe it’s an emotional pitch. Maybe it’s a close relationship or spending time building trust. These are useful enough, but there’s one tool that’s often overlooked, but never should be. It’s ongoing learning, and every sales rep and channel partner out there should know how valuable it is to keep as current as possible on what’s being sold. If partners do not stay relevant and up-to-date on technologies and how to sell them, another technology advisor will step in to take their place.

Why Should a Channel Partner Take Ongoing Learning Seriously?

A channel partner that keeps up with learning allows several important advantages to take hold.

No costly stops-and-starts. Those who try to pack all their learning into one blast every so often incur substantial costs, and not just in course tuition. Having to stop other activities while getting caught up on the latest developments represents an opportunity cost, allowing competitors to make inroads while the partner in question is busily cracking the books.

Better chances at sales. It goes without saying that knowing one’s product is one of the best ways to make sales. The benefits of being educated are two-fold:

1)  It allows the partner to more effectively demonstrate a product’s value and illustrate the value proposition at hand. When customers object—and there’s almost always an objection somewhere—the partner is better equipped to take on that objection head-on and walk out the other side.

2) Staying educated about technologies enables partners to feel more confident in their conversations with customers, and allows them to stay a step ahead of their competition. Guiding customers through new technologies will be the clincher for recurring sales.

Developed relationships. While this relates to the last point, there’s something to be said for developing a reputation for expertise. When businesses discover their sales reps are knowledgeable about a certain point, it opens up a path for those businesses to consult sales reps about technology strategy. The astute channel partner will, naturally, be ready to upsell.

Improved Learning Quality. Some might say that it takes time to be an expert anyway; what’s the difference between spending 10,000 hours all at once or 10 hours a week for a thousand weeks? For technology, the difference is simple: technology is what’s known as “auto-catalytic.” New developments follow from old ones, so the more that’s understood about old developments, the faster the new ones can be internalized and capitalized upon. It becomes easier to learn new technologies when old ones aren’t foreign.

How Can a Channel Partner Best Keep Up With Ongoing Learning?

Keep up with all the changes in a product line by joining a product ecosystem. MicroCorp, for example, has The Solutions Alliance, a portfolio of vetted IT service professionals to help keep channel partners in the loop and to ensure they deliver your customers top-notch service. For those who want to keep up and keep ahead, just drop us a line to get started.

Why an Ecosystem is Crucial for the Survival of the Channel Partner

Any company today is consuming IT on a recurring revenue basis. All solutions are delivered on recurring revenue bases. That means partners that have relationships with end users have immense opportunity to sell them various technologies on an ongoing basis. You can sell your customers a network, and stay with them to sell a host of other things. The waterfront of opportunity is getting wider and wider. But in order to sell a variety of solutions, you have to know what you’re talking about.

That is where partners get hung up. So we’ve provided a solution.

A Play Store for Partners
The Solutions Alliance is essentially a play store of solutions made available to our partners. Just like how your smartphone comes with apps you can download, the Solutions Alliance provides offerings for partners that come together to help them grow including training and education from experts in a variety of areas such as IT maintenance, asset management, domestic and international IT project management and other critical services.

One of the ingredients in this secret sauce is the contracts we put in place for members to ensure proper service delivery and commission payment. We make sure that members of the Alliance play well together. If someone misbehaves, we make sure our partners get paid no matter what.

Partners get access to a range of service providers — some of whom offer hundreds of solutions. Some providers offer a few specific solutions and help partners educate themselves on these niche technologies. We contract with both broad and focused service providers so they are obligated to provide solutions and pay our partners.

Auto-catalytic Technology

It took 50 years for everyone to get electricity. It took 5 years for everyone to get smartphones.

Never in my career have I seen the channel poised to change so much. Technology is now auto-catalytic, meaning it is changing so quickly that it is feeding off itself and changing even faster. You can’t train your way to learning about every solution anymore because technologies are accelerating on themselves.

The channel is going to look more and more like a selling organization leveraging recurring revenue contracts delivered from the cloud by manufacturers and providers. Creating an ecosystem — or being part of one — is going to be vital. It already is.

If you do not diversify your business, and learn from others in your market, you will not have a business in 5 years. That fact is becoming more and more apparent.

To learn more about the Solutions Alliance, and how you can future-proof your business in this ever-changing channel, talk to MicroCorp today.

Effortless on the Benefits of Staying Niche

Effortless, a technology and network security provider and one of MicroCorp’s provider partners, has made a name for itself in the medical, legal, and construction markets. Over the years, it has found success by staying niche. I caught up with Ben Gayheart, founder of Effortless, to talk more about why and how the company stays focused on those industries, and what benefits partners can experience from narrowing in on a couple of markets instead of trying to sell to every industry.

Phil Keenan: How does Effortless approach specific verticals to stay experts (and maintain success) in those fields?

Ben Gayheart: Our verticals are medical, legal, and construction. In the medical field, compliance is a big deal, so we stay current on HIPAA regulations and third party applications. For legal, we stay relevant on legal packages that are used by lawyers– specifically on how they operate working remotely from courtrooms. And we’ve been in the construction space a long time, so we understand the applications. We can do information-assisted selling because of our expertise.

Keenan: What are the benefits to focusing on specific verticals?

Gayheart: The markets are large spaces, so there are a lot of clients out there. And we are able to get a focused understanding of business processes in these areas.

I love business, business processes, and making business more efficient. Technology is an enabler — it’s your most important tool. But I don’t focus on the latest and greatest technology. I look at what technology can benefit a business to allow them to be more profitable. Staying in these three markets helps us focus on bringing the right technologies to businesses to make them the most successful.

Keenan: How should partners find their niches to specialize in verticals or other specific areas?

Gayheart: Focus on what problems people in those industries need to solve. For example, in the medical industry, compliance is a big buzzword. Most doctors are actually in the business of risk management. They need to stay compliant, but they don’t have time to focus on what that takes because they’re busy with patient care and a host of other things. What we do is allow them to check that box off their to do list, and for many, that is a huge deal. We close medical sales because we understand compliance. They feel comfortable with us because we enable them to do what it is they do best.

Keenan: Since you’ve always been cloud-only, what are some of the recent changes you’ve seen in cloud that are meaningful for partners?

Gayheart: We come from the MSP space, and ended up in the cloud. We were doing cloud before it was called cloud. We’ve always understood the value of using cloud technologies for lowering administrative costs, increasing flexibility, and enabling business.

But right now, the focus is on cybersecurity and disaster recovery. We are working with partners who understand those components, and that technologies need to have cybersecurity wrapped around them these days.

To learn more about how to make a name for yourself in niche markets, contact MicroCorp today.

Infographic: Don’t Go at it Alone: Six Reasons You Need a Master Agent

Selling telecom and cloud services in today’s business environment may, on the surface, seem straightforward. But with the many moving parts involved in selling these services — from commissions to provider relationships and beyond — working with a master agent makes selling and supporting these services much simpler.

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As the Channel Shifts, We Grow

Learn how MicroCorp can help channel partners in the wake of the CenturyLink acquisition of Level 3.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.