Thinking about partnering with a master agent, but unsure as to whether that will actually boost your bottom line? Rest assured: Here are five ways that working with a master agent can take your business to the next level. Continue reading
As cloud technology continues to evolve at an incredible rate, many businesses are eager to make the most of remote services and management tools. Some companies, however, are reluctant to upend their existing infrastructure for unfamiliar options. While this can present a serious struggle for agents seeking to bring their customers up to speed, it also opens the door for a conversation about a colocation-to-cloud strategy. And according to Sean Patrick Tario, trainer and VP of the new Cloud Elements Division for MicroCorp, disaster recovery serves as an ideal starting point.
“Many companies don’t have a disaster recovery program in place,” says Tario. “They might have backup, but backup isn’t disaster recovery. If your site goes down, backup means you don’t lose all your data. But with disaster recovery, if your site goes down, it will not stay down for very long, if at all.”
For most companies that own their infrastructure and have it colocated, this presents an opportunity for agents to talk about hosted disaster recovery, which is attractive to businesses because it removes the costly need for physical hardware upgrades. Once an agent starts talking to customers and walking them through how hosted disaster recovery works, that gets them thinking about what other applications can be hosted. And that’s why it’s crucial for agents to be aware of the applications and systems architecture their clients have in place.
“If an agent isn’t talking to their customers about what applications their business is running, they’re never going to get into any kind of cloud conversation,” says Tario. “You have to understand which applications they’re running 24/7/365, and, from there, you can piecemeal which data and applications can be hosted elsewhere versus owned. That’s the ideal way to begin this cloud conversation with a customer.”
Most companies already use Gmail, Salesforce, or Office 365, so they’re already operating a hybrid environment to some extent. This offers another avenue into the cloud conversation and a discussion about which applications can be hosted elsewhere and which should remain on-premises. “Those are the kinds of key conversations we train agents to have with customers,” says Tario. “We give them a comfort level to start digging down these rabbit holes.”
Another important area to assess is a company’s total cost of ownership. If a company truly wants to cut costs, this is a conversation that must involve where applications are hosted.
“If a company is using physical gear in a colocation environment,” says Tario, “then those servers, switches, and routers are likely a couple of years old and ready for a hardware refresh. And if the customer is looking to do a hardware refresh, you should ask them if they’d consider saving a couple hundred thousands dollars on hardware, and instead renting or leasing that equipment for a fraction of the cost. Then tell them that’s exactly what a hosted environment is.”
Tario also reminds partners that it’s not only companies that pose challenges to a colocation-to-cloud conversation. Fear and insecurity also often prevent partners from pitching the cloud.
“Many partners fear not understanding or knowing what options are out there,” says Tario, “or they’re intimidated by the terminology and unfamiliar with all the acronyms. They’re hesitant to start talking about things they aren’t familiar with, because if a customer asks a question they don’t know the answer to, many partners will want to make something up. The correct answer to give, however, is: ‘That’s a great question. I don’t know the answer, but we have a dedicated team of engineers and solution architects that specialize in the cloud hosting environment, and I’d love to engage with them to have this conversation with you.’
That’s where MicroCorp’s Cloud Elements division comes in. This team specializes in asking customers insightful questions about their specific situations, so they can do due-diligence to determine which service providers offer the most appropriate solutions.
“Unfortunately, we see agents get convinced by some service providers that present themselves as end-all, be-all hosted solutions,” says Tario. “These providers tell agents that if they come across any hybrid opportunities, they should throw them over the fence and let the provider close the deal. In reality, these providers will try to sell clients pre-packaged services, even though those services might not be the ideal solution for the customer.”
That’s why MicroCorp promotes a different approach.
“Partners are doing their customers a disservice by simply throwing the client to the provider for the most critical solutions engineering part of the conversation,” says Tario. “We teach agents to not simply flip opportunities over the fence to a provider. We prefer they engage our Cloud Elements team to do the front-end consulting before they bring in a provider, because this is hands down what is in the best interests of the client and the agent’s long term commission revenue stream.”
There are many ways to approach a colocation-to-cloud conversation with your clients. Hopefully, Sean’s insights can help you more effective position cloud solutions to your customers. Contact MicroCorp and Sean today to learn more.
Improving channel partner sales is MicroCorp’s focus, and digital transformation can actually boost opportunities for partners. This process of moving from a hardware-focus to more of a software-focus is bringing with it some great new opportunities to make sales.
How Can I Use Digital Transformation to Drive Sales?
Since there are several facets involved in digital transformation, there are several ways to use it to make improve channel partner sales.
SD-WAN. One of the biggest digital transformation moves around, software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) is a great fit for businesses with multiple locations. It takes what’s already worked with WAN operations and expands on it by taking the focus off hardware and putting it more on software.
Unified communications. Unified communications systems incorporate voice, video, conferencing systems and more, it’s an excellent all-in-one package, and also provides a great opportunity for sales by offering the basic infrastructure points—or even the limited hardware required—to do the job right.
BYOD. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) doctrine is a great cost-saver for businesses as employees bring their devices of choice to work. It takes some advance preparation to do correctly, though, so this is a good opportunity for channel partner sales in network security, Wi-Fi connectivity, and more.
Cloud services. While unified communications is a major cloud service, it’s not the only one. The cloud is increasingly offering a range of services from analytics to disaster recovery. Having these services on hand can mean excellent partner sales for businesses looking to branch out, better protect themselves, or perform a wide range of functions without having the hardware on hand.
Data center functions. Whether it’s on-premises, cloud-based, or a hybrid of the two, businesses are taking advantage of having their data immediately to hand and readily shared out throughout the organization. Channel partner sales benefit here, particularly for targets that have no data center or want to change the current one.
How Do I Get Started with Digital Transformation?
If you see opportunity in digital transformation, then the way to take advantage of it to start making more sales is to start working with a master agent, like us at MicroCorp. We can provide options for several stages of digital transformation. Plus, our Ultimate Partner Training program can help keep you on the cutting edge of new developments. So don’t let digital transformation pass you by; get in touch with us to get started making new channel partner sales.
Working with an ecosystem of experts is the only way channel partners will survive in this era of ever-changing technology. The Solutions Alliance is one of the ways partners can connect with providers and other partners with specific expertise and experience to ensure their success.
What is the Solutions Alliance?
We cannot all become experts across all subjects within an industry that is infinitely complex and constantly evolving. To put this in perspective, it is impossible for any one person or firm to be an expert plumber, electrician, architect and welder across all residential and commercial building applications. As each project and development is unique and can vary wildly in scale and scope, contractors with specific knowledge and experience are brought in by the general contractor and developer of a project based on specific project needs.
The Solutions Alliance program thus serves as an ecosystem of specialists in specific areas who serve MicroCorp agents. These specialists — while associated with various companies — all remain agnostic in their approach when serving agents. They have also been vetted to bring unbiased value and education to their interactions with agents across a variety of IT disciplines.
For example, Open Spectrum focuses on data center, cloud, and hybrid hosting solutions. We bring strategic account engagement training, marketing collateral and our industry expertise to the table on-demand for all MicroCorp agents. Walking side by side with you, we help agents gain the confidence to open up broader business conversations, holistic application and work load resource discovery conversations, and different communication channels with existing and future client relationships. In short, we help agents make money selling complex data center, cloud and hybrid hosting solutions they otherwise wouldn’t be comfortable selling on their own.
What can partners expect?
In the Solutions Alliance, partners can expect to find a trusted and vetted network of established industry experts and consultants with niche expertise and experience across a variety of disciplines. As the Solutions Alliance grows, so will the capabilities you can offer your existing and future clients. With Open Spectrum, partners can access a global team of data center and cloud hosting consultants that have toured hundreds of data center properties, performed complex IT audits for companies of all shapes and sizes, and collectively negotiated thousands of colocation, cloud, and hybrid service contracts.
The IT buying landscape has evolved dramatically over the last few years. If you are relying on service providers to perform a truly agnostic open ended initial discovery and audit of actual needs, you are doing your clients a disservice. The agents who are thriving today have changed how they serve their customers and who within the organization they serve. They are also not afraid to bring to the table resources who are more equipped to provide specific knowledge and experience when needed.
Want to prepare for future sales?
Just as the decades of experience you have spent developing your core expertise in various Telecom, UCaaS, TEM, Call Center and/or related network technologies gives you a strategic advantage, so does the same deep experience give those in the Solutions Alliance a strategic advantage. The Solutions Alliance is thus not just a pool of contracted resources, but an insurance policy that will keep you educated and surrounded by the best contractors available.
The Solutions Alliance allows agents to uncover the gold mine of opportunities within existing relationships and accounts and future-proofs your business. I highly encourage you to contact MicroCorp today to learn more about this resource!
If 2017 seemed like a big year for cloud to you, there’s a good reason: it was a big year for cloud. What’s more, there’s every sign that 2018 will be just as big and maybe even bigger. So big, in fact, that new predictions about the cloud have started emerging on several fronts. Which of these predictions should you watch for? What will cloud possibly do for—or even to—your business? Check out some of these predictions and start getting your plans for 2018 in cloud in place.
What’s Ahead for the Cloud in 2018?
Thanks in large part to its versatility, there’s a lot to consider about the cloud to come. Good news, bad news, and general changes in the landscape are all part of what’s to come.
A more personal cloud. While businesses have increasingly found value in cloud-based operations, there’s another side of the cloud coin to consider: customer-facing applications. Regular people increasingly desire cloud applications not only for work-related tasks, but also for after-hours fun and living. Development should therefore accelerate on that front.
Microservices architecture will gain. Container orchestration will prove a growing part of the cloud industry. With containers hot, new applications developers will increasingly work in a microservices framework. Cross-cloud container dominance will prompt developers to focus on open cloud stacks to prevent a chance at vendor lock-in.
Cloud sprawl on the rise. Vendor lock-in will terrify businesses to the point they will diversify rapidly. The problem with that, however, is that it may ultimately produce multiple clouds’ worth of data siloing, and that will require new management techniques executed at the human level.
Traffic will shift. Enterprise users are expected to shift as much as 10 percent from carrier backbones to other operations, and that’s going to put new weight on telecom operators as they scramble to absorb the impact of a lot of extra traffic.
Skills shortages will erupt. Cloud technology skills are likely to prove especially prized and often in short supply. Businesses that can’t attract new talent will need to focus on internal training, a slower but reliable method of having skills in place.
How Do I Prepare for All These Cloud Changes?
Getting ready for the cloud and all its changes may be simpler than you think. MicroCorp’s Ultimate Partner Training is the industry’s best way to prepare for these new developments. Just drop us a line to learn more.
Like any innovative technology, SD-WAN evolves rapidly. For businesses utilizing SD-WAN or evaluating its implementation, there are a few considerations to keep in mind for the coming year.
Cloud technology has opened up a slate of new possibilities, but it’s also created significant new threats for regular users and enterprise users alike. Any value-added reseller (VAR), managed service provider (MSP) or sales agent targeting the enterprise market, therefore, needs to know just what to watch out for and what to encourage to provide solutions in this increasingly cloud-based environment.
What New Opportunities Have Emerged With the Cloud?
The cloud has brought great new opportunities for businesses that are tailor-made for solution providers.
Broader talent pool. Businesses now no longer need only hire people in the city in which they operate. Cloud-based document management and communications systems let anyone work from anywhere, if they have access to the tools.
Greater agility. Those who can work anywhere can work any time, too. Plus, access to systems resources that scale with need mean that projects that need more computing resources can get these without bulky, costly, and time-consuming installations.
New business. Consider the companies that would be nowhere without the cloud. Most streaming services count on it, and document storage operations can keep those documents secure in the cloud.
What New Threats do Businesses Face Thanks to the Cloud?
All of these advances haven’t come without threats to address, and that’s opportunity for the astute solution provider.
Security. This is commonly the big one. The information kept in the cloud is a valuable target for thieves, and from theft of customer data to theft of intellectual property, cloud security is one of the biggest risks there is.
Loss of visibility. A cloud is often opaque by its nature, and cloud computing is no different. It’s often hard to track information once it goes into the cloud. Those working remotely with cloud-based tools can’t be watched. Visibility is lost.
System performance. There’s a reason cloud-based systems come with service-level agreements (SLAs). Whether it’s the hardware at the user’s end or the hardware at the provider’s end, system performance has to be at its peak to provide the best cloud experience.
How Can I Provide Technology that Best Works With the Cloud?
The best way to provide technology that both works with the cloud and protects against the new threats seen previously is to start by getting in touch with MicroCorp. With over 30 years’ experience in partner support for VARs, MSPs and agent operations, this master agent can not only delivery the best in solutions but also top-level support.
Enterprises often take a layered approach to security, deploying solutions for network, compute and application. With so many solutions increasingly being network-centered, such as Internet of Things components and cloud technology, many organizations are recognizing the need for a network-focused security strategy. In many cases, software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is able to address the challenges of network security.
Networks are the area to which there’s been the most change in recent years, so it makes sense that security is more advanced in this realm. Here are five recommendations for implementing secure SD-WAN:
- Add encryption to your WAN transport. When they choose SD-WAN, companies have access to low-cost broadband and can encrypt all Internet flow to each site without the need for administrators to make manual configuration changes to routers after each change to the network. It’s also important to note that SD-WAN is more secure than most private IP services because there can’t be a breach to the data even if the carrier network is threatened.
- Make sure your cloud connection is secure. It doesn’t matter how secure your client’s public cloud service is, whether they’re accessing Amazon or Salesforce. Every time they transfer sensitive data over the Internet to get to the cloud service, it’s an opportunity for a security breach. The SD-WAN provider may offer granular Internet breakout so that your client can distinguish between security mandates to move traffic through particular secure gateways. They’ll also have next-generation firewalls stationed at your branch or in the cloud or data storage center. All of the inherent risks associated with cloud solutions is mitigated by SD-WAN.
- Cover local branch security. Each of your client’s branch offices will require security, especially in cases where there is direct Internet access. The cost of buying and configuring physical appliances for each site can be prohibitive, and this method requires an engineer to travel to each site. SD-WAN allows your client to deploy VPNs, firewalls or WAN optimization from a central location by using network functions virtualization. This makes it convenient to provide security coverage for each branch location.
- Meeting requirements for compliance. The rules governing healthcare and financial services, including HIPAA or PCI data security fit perfectly with SD-WAN technology. SD-WAN allows the enterprise to create virtual overlays to segment applications traffic.
- Create secure segmentation. Segmentation allows the IT team to isolate applications traffic for security purposes or to work with specific performance requirements. While legacy networks could do this, it was time-consuming and challenging. Segmentation with SD-WAN allows for consistency of configurations and best practices defined and enforced through business intent policies.
With security becoming a growing IT cost, MicroCorp anticipates more customers selecting an SD-WAN technology to create a secure and manageable cloud-based environment. As the demand for more agile, cloud-based WAN-technologies accelerates, we continue to provide focus to the variety of WAN technologies available. Contact us today to find out the best solution for your business.
You’ve determined that a move to the cloud is in your company’s best interests, but now you have to sell it to the decision-makers. You may be tempted to start your presentation off right away by discussing the expected benefits from housing your solutions in the cloud, like flexibility, agility, performance, cost savings, and scalability. But your executives also want to know the return on investment (ROI), so be ready to discuss it in order to get buy-in on your transition.
Determine the cost of ownership for your on-premises option. While estimating the ROI of your on-premises solution may not be precise, it will still put cloud investment in perspective. There are three key pieces of information you should gather first:
- The cost of the necessary equipment
- The projected lifespan of the solution
- The cost of capital (how much you could expect to earn if you invested that money elsewhere)
Next, gather information about your operating expenses:
- Floor space
- Staff to monitor and administer servers
- Security and backup services
Add up these costs and divide them by the projected lifespan of your equipment to estimate the monthly cost of ownership for an on-premises system.
Explain the value that the organization will gain from the cloud. There are a multitude of benefits you could discuss, but it’s important to talk about the financial gains that improve the overall ROI in a cloud transition versus an on-premises solution. There are several areas that will impact your cost savings in the cloud:
- Less IT maintenance
- Categorization of software subscriptions as operating expenses versus capital investments
- No investment in hardware
- Scalability and flexibility
- Improved performance
Have a plan for controlling cloud costs. While it may be impossible to produce exact numbers for your ROI, you’ll gain more fans in the board room if you have a solid plan for controlling costs. For instance, how will your cloud solution handle cold data storage and how much will it cost to retrieve and rehydrate that cold data? It’s also good to have a plan for areas like cloud bursting and shadow IT. Determining the costs of migration will also prevent surprises when it comes to the total cost of ownership for a cloud solution.
At MicroCorp, we’re always ready to collaborate and innovate. We are committed to your success and would love to talk more about your cloud migration and find out how we can help. Contact us today to get started.
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.