Tag Archives: Cloud

Cloud technologies have been both a boon and a bane to some industries.

Threats and Opportunities: The Cloud and Technology Adoption

Cloud technologies have been both a boon and a bane to some industries.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, security in the cloud 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.

SD-WAN answers many of the challenges posed by security that demands a higher focus on networks.

SD-WAN Offers Answers to Network Security Problems

SD-WAN answers many of the challenges posed by security that demands a higher focus on networks.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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Provide a balanced case for adopting a move to the cloud and increase your buy-in on the project with anticipated ROI.

When Presenting a Move to the Cloud, Provide a Balanced Case

Provide a balanced case for adopting a move to the cloud and increase your buy-in on the project with anticipated ROI.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
  • Electricity
  • 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.

Don’t Got 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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One on One: Work Hard, Play Hard

Helicopters and Bourbon Tasting, need I say more?! Of course, your One on One “In The Cloud” experience will be fun and exciting. But, don’t worry, we will also ensure that you have plenty of time for informative education sessions, provocative keynotes, and individual meetings with your peers and industry leaders. You don’t want to miss anything we have planned. Take a look at just a few items in store for attendees!

Focus on Our Top Sellers

One on One weekend begins with recognition of our FastStart Achievers. FastStart celebrates the partners that kicked their sales into high gear during the first half of 2017, and many are now focusing on achieving President’s Club! This pack of sales experts will be enjoying a VIP, “In The Cloud” experience all weekend long, and will be enjoying executive rooms and fancy dinners alongside their over-performing peers.

We strive to build a community environment by connecting partners that share the same challenges and level of success. It’s the type of learning that can’t be put into a presentation or training session. Your FastStart and President’s Club Achievers have a unique opportunity to spend real quality time with their peers and select providers in an environment that fosters an open and honest exchange of knowledge and expertise.

First Day In

Day one kicks off with two high-impact sessions – “The Anatomy of a Wildly Successful Lead Gen Campaign,” and “Partners at Their Peak.” Our high energy guest speaker will help you understand how to drive a lead gen campaign that will put you in the running for next year’s FastStart Club, and might even help you join us for this year’s President’s Club in Los Cabos, Mexico! The power-packed session on lead gen is followed by a couple of world-class partners that will provide their insight on how they built — and continue to build — highly successful agencies. Their companies encompass traditional telecom while rapidly adopting new services, technologies, and market avenues that will sustain their growth and provide long-term success for their teams and personal finances.   

Once we have your heads spinning from the high impact afternoon sessions, it is time to really head Into the Cloud. We will all head over to beautiful Ventana’s — a glass-enclosed event center that faces the new Mercedes Benz stadium. Join us for some amazing food, lots of great drinks, and a spectacular view from the outdoor terrace while we watch helicopters landing and taking off over our heads. We’re confident there will be some perfect selfie opportunities while you circle above downtown Atlanta in chartered helicopters as the sun sets over the Empire City of the South. You don’t want to miss this opening night!

Day 2 – Business as You Like It

Day 2 is our official business session with a week’s worth of content compressed into a day. There’s a little bit of everyone’s favorite throughout the day – Lisa Miller of Level 3 will keynote, our president Phil Keenan imparts his English sensibilities, and there’s even a battle-round between providers. But with all due respect to prepared presentations, the partner favorite continues to be the roundtable sessions where partners lead the discussions, decide the topics, and get into what really makes a difference in building a successful business. The partner roundtable sessions not only validate partners’ feelings about their challenges, it opens their eyes to new ideas, new solutions, and new friends in the business.

Day 2 closes with a lively expo and high-energy recognition banquet for our top sales performers. Get ready for a truly different experience during dinner and the award ceremonies. Sorry, I can’t say any more, you need to be there to experience it and take home a bit of the fun.  

Learn more about One on One and register here for this must-attend event.

Comcast’s Cary Tengler Talks Sales, SD-WAN, and Partner Success

I sat down with Cary Tengler, Executive Director, National Partner Programs at Comcast to talk about how partners can find the opportunities to sell evolving technologies.

Join Microcorp and Comcast Business' Cary Tengler for a conversation on channel partner success.
As technologies evolve rapidly, it is the constant struggle of the partner to keep up with new solutions, and how to sell them. I talked with Comcast’s Cary Tengler to discuss what partners can do to stay up on technology trends, educate themselves to sell more, and to build complex sales. See our full exchange below.

How can partners become well-rounded in the channel, and be able to sell multiple services/technologies to build complex sales?

Tengler: I don’t actually believe that growth-oriented partners need to be well-rounded. Instead, I think partners must focus on specific verticals and solution sets in which they have – or can develop – a competitive advantage.  It used to be the case that partners could be very successful by being networking generalists and providing a quick turnaround on three quotes for a T1.

This clearly is no longer the case. The advent of cloud-based solutions has moved much of the IT budget and decision-making into disparate parts of the organization, including HR, sales, operations, and most importantly marketing. This requires growth-oriented partners to focus more on their customers’ business outcomes than transactional sales techniques. This is why MicroCorp’s Ultimate Partner Training is so critical to the sales partner community. This in-depth training provides an immersive experience that truly teaches partners the “how and why” of positioning and selling emerging technologies like cloud connectivity, data center, and SD-WAN solutions.

As a leader in cable, fiber, and ethernet technologies, how do you see the growth of “bandwidth hog” solutions such as SD-WAN impacting the need for cable/fiber, etc.?

Tengler: With the caveat that SD-WAN is actually a solution for effectively managing bandwidth hogs, Comcast is a huge advocate of SD-WAN and we’ll be releasing our own solution later this year.

The principal benefit is that it frees the end-user from the tyranny of MPLS, a 20+ year old technology that is expensive, difficult to manage and totally unsuited for utilizing cloud-based solutions. Many end users continue to maintain their MPLS networks due to a toxic mix of fear and inertia.

Prior to SD-WAN, an MPLS customer seeking to upgrade their WAN was faced with significant technical and economic roadblocks (i.e., rip-and-replace) and often chose to live with an expensive sub-optimal solution rather than attempt a wholesale network replacement.

SD-WAN removes both the technical and economic barriers and allows end-users to mix and match network technologies to better manage their solutions and desired business outcomes.

And by removing the MPLS “requirement”, Comcast is highly confident that our coax and fiber services will be very well positioned to be the MPLS killer.

What is Comcast’s role in helping partners deal with and learn about these “bandwidth hog” technologies? 

Tengler: Since the inception of Comcast Business, we have led the cable and telecom industry in simultaneously reducing costs and driving bandwidth speed increases, so to a certain extent, we’ve been helping partners by providing the most reliable, cost-effective high-speed bandwidth solutions on the market.

More specifically, as Comcast expands its services portfolio beyond traditional data and voice into cloud and data center connectivity, premise-based services like Wifi Pro and Smart Office, and even IoT, we are investing heavily in training, operations, support, and, of course, in our master agents like MicroCorp.

Educating and enabling sales partners is hard and ongoing, for all parties involved, but ultimately it’s that three-way partnership that will position the channel as the primary solutions provider for next generation solutions.

We are constantly training our partners on evolving data center, SD-WAN, and hosted technologies. What would you say are some of the most important things partners need to consider when selling these solutions?

Tengler: I’ll go back to my first comment and suggest that partners identify the solutions and verticals in which they have or can establish a competitive advantage. The decentralization of IT budgets requires that sales partners speak the language of the “line of business” manager which typically moves beyond speeds-and-feeds into business outcomes. Focus, focus, focus.

And, no surprise here, I believe every sales partner must develop a familiarity with cable connectivity (at a minimum) and establish a selling partnership with the local cableco. As more mission-critical applications move to the cloud, having a diverse back-up connectivity solution is not just nice, but necessary. This redundancy and diversity is best addressed with cable.

How does Comcast work with master agents who focus on complex sales? How is the approach different from that of working with masters who focus on SMBs and smaller, individual sales?

Tengler: Comcast’s Master Agents are supported by an outstanding team of 75+ support and operations professionals, of which fully half are dedicated to complex sales support. Additionally, we have 22 partner sales managers and 12 sales engineers who work closely with local sales partners, primarily complex solutions design and other pre-sales issues. The sales engineers take the lead in our field-based partner training on a wide variety of solutions, including fiber, WAN, SD-WAN, hosted voice and UCaaS.

As compared to those Masters that focus on SMB sales, which are more transactional and operations focused, we invest disproportionately in the training and 3-wide teaming model that are necessary for success in selling and delivering expensive and complex solutions.

But don’t get me wrong – we love SMB and are happy to support those sales partners and customers as well. In fact, our 1Gbps coax (+ SD-WAN solution) is already making its way into more complex solutions sales.

How the Cloud is Driving SD-WAN

Learn how cloud adoption is driving SD-WAN.The adoption of Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) is increasing, providing enterprises with a host of benefits. 451 Research reports that one in five companies indicate that they’ll adopt SD-WAN in the following year, and an additional 30 percent say that adoption of SD-WAN is on their radar.

The benefits of implementing SD-WAN include:

  • The ability to optimize connections to the cloud and secure those connections better than with current networks, which is a key driver of SD-WAN use
  • An application-aware approach to WAN, which is becoming more important to IT managers as cloud usage expands
  • Improved agility and cost-savings

Cloud Adoption is Spurring SD-WAN

The migration of companies’ software solutions to the cloud is an independent event, but the use of SD-WAN is occurring alongside it. As IT professionals pursue a transition to cloud software, they don’t want to sacrifice performance or security in seeking out the cost savings and agility that’s found in cloud applications.

A traditional WAN is set up with individual branches connected to a central location using a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) connection or other dedicated circuits. Each branch has a router that acts independently, and traffic on the connection is managed based on static routing.

SD-WAN, by contrast, removes the control plane from the physical devices that are at each branch, which provides central control and visibility over the WAN. This means that enterprises are able to mix and match the connections that are being used and the various carriers, allowing for greater flexibility and agility.

This set-up trades a wheel-and-spokes structure for one where the enterprise can connect directly to the cloud. Additionally, IT professionals have more visibility to work with the entire network footprint and manage traffic for optimized cloud application performance.

As cloud migration continues to increase, it’s expected that SD-WAN will grow alongside it. The same 451 Research poll results indicate that 88 percent of respondents plan to increase their cloud and hosting budgets in 2017.

What’s Holding You Back?

There are some potential obstacles to implementing SD-WAN, and one or more may keep your company from embracing this technology:

  • The cost of new equipment that SD-WAN requires
  • Concerns about the maturity of the current offerings for SD-WAN
  • Internet performance
  • Security concerns

Some experts predict that cloud offerings may soon be bundled with SD-WAN, because the marriage of the two makes sense in nearly every situation.

MicroCorp is an expert in connectivity and the cloud. When you partner with us, you’ll have access to not only the ideal cloud solutions for your enterprise, but also the connectivity you need to support optimized performance and cloud management agility. Give us a call today.

Hacker

Preparing for Today’s Generation of Ambitious Hackers

Make sure your cyber security strategy will protect your business against today's hackers.Online 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 downtime 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: How It Changed Itself, and Us

How have cloud services changed the way that channel partners do business?Today’s cloud environment has picked up steam from a “customer acceptance” point of view: customers are adopting cloud in general at a much faster rate than we had expected them to. We no longer pitch cloud — our clients ask us about it. And, while cloud has been a boon for many, it’s important to remember that new technologies can come with a set of challenges that are shifting the telecom and IT markets in various ways.

Cloud Evolution

Cloud started on the email side with products like Office 365, then moved into phone systems with hosted technology; now we get questions about moving servers to the cloud. The transition from email to phone to infrastructure was rapid, and all three are still growing. From the transformation of backup (moving from tape to cloud) to the developments from giants like AWS, cloud is an ever-evolving beast. And we expect to see more in the way of private cloud infrastructure in the future.

Price Erosion Forces Change
Price erosion on connectivity and network deals is a big concern in the telecom world these days, and cloud offers the opportunity to pivot and go deeper with customers by offering more solutions. But it’s important to call out our experience here at SinglePoint in this regard: we have not felt the effects of price erosion the way we thought we would because the need for bandwidth has kept up with the erosion.

Where we were selling 10 Mbps, we now sell 100 Mbps. Where we were selling MPLS, we are now selling SD-WAN. While pricing does keep going down, market trends have pushed us to rethink our partnerships and our sales model as well as to adopt and use cloud as a product. It has forced our hand to move more into IT from the pure telecom sphere we used to work in, and we have made partnerships in order to conduct IT risk assessments and build upon private cloud architecture.

Cloud Changes the Market
There have been continual mergers and acquisitions across carriers, and as the big get bigger, we have fewer and fewer providers. Now, we see all these new providers coming up; not as carrier services, but as cloud companies and hosted phone companies. Where there used to be 50 CLECs, there are 100 new hosted phone companies and hundreds of new SD-WAN companies. As they come out of the woodwork, we see cloud changing what businesses are offering.

What’s in Store
In 2015, our core carrier products (internet, MPLS, voice services, etc.) were 90% of our sales. In 2016, 40% of our sales were non-traditional telecom products such as cloud systems, hosted contact management solutions, hosted phones, cloud-based architecture, and cellular. That huge shift tells us to expect more change, and to think ahead about our offerings.

Cloud Technology Provides Opportunity for Data Centers to Reorganize

Learn how cloud services are helping data centers 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.