Posts Tagged ‘Managed services’

Get To Know an MSP: Breakthrough Technology Group (BTG)

July 15, 2015 Comments off

Breakthrough Technology Group, Inc.Breakthrough Technology Group, Inc. – BTG
Managed Telecom and IT Services
Morganville, NJ.
(732) 978-4443

CEO – Jeff Kaplan

May 27, 2015 was a red-letter day for Breakthrough Technology Group, Inc. (BTG) in that it had two major announcements for its new partner programs: BTG Partner and BTG Private Cloud Partner. I spoke with CEO Jeff Kaplan about the new partner programs and BTG’s cloud offerings.

Podcast Info: Length: 26:15 minutes. Format: MP3. Rating: G (All audiences).

BTG Partner Program

The new BTG Partner Program opened to consultants, systems integrators, vendors and agents to offer cloud computing and services to enterprise, and midmarket and smaller businesses.

“When you look at the consulting community, there’s a ton of partners out there who don’t have a recurring-revenue stream and who are looking for the right partner, and the right reliability for their customers,” Kaplan said. “Those are relationships we’re looking to build.”

This program really focuses on the consultant community in an attempt to broaden BTG’s reach into smaller companies and to bring recurring revenue to consultants. BTG is also trying to help those consultants and VARs extend their reach and transform their businesses into a more sustainable format by enabling these new partners to leverage cloud services for their customers.

The program includes three levels for participation:

  • Adviser, which qualifies a customer, and initiates a discussion between BTG and the customer;
  • Reseller Billing Only, which becomes BTG’s client on behalf of the customer in terms of billing; and
  • Reseller White Label, in which everything, from the support portal to answering of phones, will be branded as the partner.

For consultants and vendors who want to use BTG’s infrastructure and cloud services as their own infrastructure, BTG offers a so-called “White Label” partnership where BTG becomes an extension of the partner for customer support. This partnership enables small consultancies the opportunity to offer a wider range of services and technologies to their customers with extended support from BTG.

BTG Private Cloud Partner Program

Systems integrators, VARs, and agents are now able to deliver secure cloud solutions, offer Tier-1 data center, applications and services without capital investment. This partnership program lowers the barriers to cloud solutions business for its partners, which otherwise would be unreachable due to the costs associated with infrastructure, networking, and support personnel.

“Analysts and industry experts worldwide agree that private cloud offers a tremendous opportunity for solutions providers to mitigate risk and deliver a secure, efficient computing experience,” said Kaplan. “Our Private Cloud Partner Program will open new doors for businesses of all sizes and markets by creating supplemental revenue streams, taking their companies to unprecedented heights.”

As a managed services provider, BTG puts itself in the background as the support system for its partners.

BTG’s Cloud-based Offerings

A major pain point for companies is how to manage desktop computing. To that end, BTG offers its AppsAnyplace solution that includes fully managed, hosted, custom virtual desktops and applications. The pain points of desktop computing are support costs, patch management, remote user support, consistent desktop environments, standardized applications, malware problems, and data security.

The standard Desktop-as-a-Service takes care of these issues by hosting virtual desktops in a private cloud environment and taking care of all support, security, and maintenance in the background.

BTG’s Private Cloud services leverage a highly redundant and virtualized security, networking, and SAN storage.

Private Cloud features include:

  • 24×7×365 infrastructure and private cloud management
  • Optional management and monitoring through the OS/Application layers
  • Cloud environment to host client applications
  • Optional replication of data and applications
  • 24x7x365 Help Desk
  • Support for dedicated virtual Linux and Windows servers
  • Application and data security
  • Consumption-based pricing

For SaaSAnyplace, BTG supports dedicated hosted Exchange Server, hosted SharePoint, hosted Lync Server, and hosted archiving & eDiscovery. For its DataAnyplace service, BTG uses Citrix ShareFile to enable users to use data on any device and for easy collaboration.

Founded in 2007, Breakthrough Technology Group (BTG) is a managed services provider that supports mid-market enterprise customers, through the use of advanced technology and telecommunications.


Get To Know an MSP: Kalleo Technologies

May 5, 2015 Comments off

Kalleo TechnologiesKalleo Technologies
Managed IT Support Services
Paducah, KY
(270) 908-4136

CEO – Doug Truitt

Kalleo Technologies (Kalleo) CEO, Doug Truitt, and I had a good conversation about his company, its history, the company philosophy, and its services. First, is Kalleo’s interesting location: Paducah, Kentucky. Paducah is a centrally located city that’s surrounded by universities and other industries. Paducah was a strategic location during the American Civil War and remains as a significant railroad hub today.

I can’t really relay Doug’s philosophy better than he can:

After many years of being involved with IT organizations large and small we found that the traditional IT vendor to client relationship was fundamentally flawed. That relationship, typically referred to as a “break-fix” model of IT support, provides little incentive for the IT vendor to prevent clients from experiencing problems.  When something breaks, the client pays the vendor to fix the problem.

We believed – and have subsequently proven – that proactively managing your network always costs less, always improves systems’ uptime, and always improves the IT vendor to client relationship. Kalleo Technologies’ proactive, flat rate approach to IT support ensures our goals and incentives match those of our clients. Because we charge a flat rate for service, we make the same amount of money whether things are running smoothly or whether they are breaking. If things are breaking, our costs go up and our profit goes down, incentivizing us, as your partner, to keep things running smoothly.

Next, is Kalleo’s flat rate philosophy. I really like the Kalleo flat rate approach. It means that you pay a flat rate to engage Kalleo Technologies’ support, but only pay that flat rate whether or not things are broken. For example, you pay a flat rate for January and nothing goes wrong, but in February, there’s major patching to be done or there’s a new virus out that require a lot of hands-on time–you pay the flat rate again for February.

It’s a win-win situation, because regardless of your situation, you know how much you’ll be charged each month for service. And just because you’re being charged without anything being “broken” doesn’t mean that Kalleo isn’t doing anything. They still work in the background, making sure that your systems are updated, patched, and functioning normally.

Peace of mind and proactive maintenance are invaluable to any company. You must realize how important and significant this “behind the scenes” work really is to the smooth operation of your company and its computing assets.

Kalleo’s Support Model:

1. Proactive Maintenance
2. Help Desk Support
3. Rented A/V
4. IT Toolset
5. Vendor Management

Finally, Doug’s team isn’t interested in taking over your IT department, they’re there as staff augmentation, which means that they serve your company on-demand. For example, let’s say that you have a project that requires 20 FTEs working for two weeks–a desktop operating system upgrade for 500 employees. You have four employees in your IT staff. As a managed services provider, Kalleo’s team could come in and execute that migration without disturbing your employees or your full-time staff.

And Kalleo isn’t just a regional provider either, it has customers all around the country including Hawaii. Obviously Kalleo is setup for remote support, so that you don’t have to wait for someone to drive or fly to your location for break/fix, patching, or regular maintenance.

Kalleo Technologies focuses its efforts on three primary verticals:

  • Medical
  • Government
  • Transportation

Kalleo can handle large company IT augmentation and large projects as well as day-to-day support issues.

You can stay connected to Kalleo Technologies through social media at:

Among Kalleo’s extensive list of services, it offers proactive maintenance to ensure your users are up and running all the time, 24 hour monitoring, automated maintenance, remote multi-level Help Desk support, anti-virus support, optimized support tools, and vendor management.

Managed services providers (MSPs), such as Kalleo Technologies, offer companies a leveraged IT sourcing model that is often less expensive, more responsive, and better equipped to handle large projects, special support issues, break/fix, and after hours support than an internal staff is. MSPs employ a variety of IT experts, from help desk personnel up to architect-level professionals, to assist your company in migrations, projects, upgrades, and regular maintenance activities.


This post was brought to you by IBM for MSPs and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s PivotPoint. Dedicated to providing valuable insight from industry thought leaders, PivotPoint offers expertise to help you develop, differentiate and scale your business.

Using an MSP is not the same as outsourcing

March 23, 2015 1 comment

Managed Service ProviderThere is a common misconception circulating that using a managed service provider (MSP) is outsourcing. It isn’t. A good working definition of outsourcing is, “To surrender an aspect of your company’s functionality to a third party.” For example, if you hire an outside firm to take care of your computer support, you have outsourced computer support because no one in your company participates in that activity.

However, MSPs do share some common benefits with outsourcing, so the confusion is understandable. Some of the shared benefits are:

  • Cost savings
  • Ability to focus on core business
  • More competitive
  • Faster expansion

The most often quoted reason for using an MSP or outsourcing is to “save money.” Using a third party for certain types of work does lead to some cost savings because you have fewer employees, you don’t purchase hardware, you don’t pay for power, and you don’t have to worry about physical security of purchased assets.

Outsourcing [from Wikipedia]

In business, outsourcing involves the contracting out of a business process to another party (compare business process outsourcing). The term “outsourcing” dates back to at least 1981. Outsourcing sometimes involves transferring employees and assets from one firm to another, but not always. Outsourcing is also the practice of handing over control of public services to for-profit corporations.

Products and services purchased from third party vendors allow you to focus on your core business, which is probably not maintaining and supporting racks of servers, network equipment, and patching operating systems and applications. You can focus more on manufacturing, selling, and marketing your actual products and services. Unless you’re in the IT business, using a third party vendor makes sense.

You can be more competitive in the market by concentrating your resources on your priorities, your research, your development, and your competition. Global markets change rapidly. Business requirements change rapidly. And your business must change rapidly too. To change with business tides, your business needs to be as agile and as lean as possible. MSPs and outsourcing make this agility possible.

Now, that you have a feel for how MSPs and outsourcing are similar, it’s time to explore the differences so that you can clearly see that using an MSP is not outsourcing.

The features that differentiate MSPs from outsourcing

  • Control
  • Fixed costs
  • Pay-as-you-go/grow
  • Extension of your business
  • Increased flexibility

Outsourcing is a release of control, whereas an MSP allows you to exert a great deal of control over your leased infrastructure and services. Control is one of the major benefits of using an MSP over outsourcing. If you require too much control, outsourcing becomes cumbersome and the trend toward bringing the work back in-house is usually the next step in regaining control. The reason is that exerting control over a third party service or personnel is very difficult to do in that the personnel performing the work are not your employees and therefore you have little enforceable control over them.

Outsourcing usually affords you a set of services for an amount of labor. Depending on the contract that you have with the outsourcing company, you might never know what your monthly charges are going to be due to changing needs. For example, if you outsource your desktop support, then you’re charged an hourly rate based on the visits and work performed by the outsourcing company’s employees. There’s no way to predict from one month to the next how much service you’ll need. MSPs charge a subscription that changes only when you add or remove services or products from your inventory. You can predict what your fees will be for the foreseeable future.

Having a fixed set of costs also allows you to plan for growth in your projects and in your budget predictions. It’s easier to plan your business needs around these fixed costs and pay as you grow. The pay-as-you-go/grow plan is exciting for businesses because it allows you to better manage growth and to expand when ready.

An MSP is an extension of your business, not simply a service that you call on an as-needed basis. The MSP is always there, working in the background to maintain your systems, to keep its service levels high, and to retain your business. The MSP’s success is tied directly to your success and its ability to perform helps your business to succeed. The MSP and your business are not mutually exclusive to one another. The relationship is a symbiotic one where both parties benefit from the other’s successes.

Finally, the MSP is highly flexible. You can augment your in-house infrastructure by using the MSP as a disaster recovery setup and you can phase in its use as your internal systems go off lease or are ready for a refresh. The MSP is there and ready to take on your capacity at will in an on-demand fashion. When you’re ready to go “all in,” you can do so without hesitation. The MSP will also help with your transition by providing consulting and other services to make the move smooth and without significant downtime.

Using an MSP is not outsourcing.  An MSP acts an extension of your business, allowing you to better manage your budget, to leverage a modern infrastructure, and to efficiently handle business expansion.

IBM_logoThis post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Is your company MSP material?

March 18, 2015 Comments off

Creating a PartnershipIf you think that your company has what it takes to become a managed service provider (MSP), then you should consider it as a business growth option. Not only can you generate recurring revenue from getting involved in the MSP channel and the “As a Service” business model, but you can also grow your business toward the future. “Remain flexible” and “create strategic partnerships that benefit you and your customers” are the best advice tidbits gleaned from listening to experienced MSP CXOs.

Although not always the case, most businesses that transition into the MSP business do so because they already offer direct managed services to their customers. And those who already provide a service are considering or are working toward providing more services, mostly as a result of customer needs. Many MSP customers or potential MSP customers all report the same three primary pain points:

  • A desire to offload infrastructure management
  • A need to maintain a predictable technology budget
  • A requirement to respond quickly to changing business needs

A managed service provider (MSP) delivers network, application, system and e-management services across a network to multiple enterprises, using a “pay as you go” pricing model. A “pure play” MSP focuses on management services as its core offering. In addition, the MSP market includes offerings from other providers — including application service providers (ASPs), Web hosting companies and network service providers (NSPs) — that supplement their traditional offerings with management services.

A potential MSP needs to be mindful of two specific fears that businesses have when considering offloading their support to a third party: control–or lack thereof and response time. Anyone who’s ever dealt with third party vendors can testify that response is often lackluster and sometimes downright inexcusable.

To alleviate those fears, you have to ask yourself two questions before you decide to become an MSP:

Does your staff possess the desire and ability to respond quickly to customer needs?

Do you plan to allow the customer to exert a moderate amount of control over his or her environment?

If you can’t answer a confident “Yes” to both questions, you need to reconsider your choice to become an MSP.

Having stated that, you can train and motivate your employees and you can make the decision to allow the customer a moderate amount of control. The company that you choose as your upstream partner has a lot to do with how successful you’ll be, so choose carefully and thoughtfully.

You should also consider how you’re going to meet service level agreements (SLAs) with your customers. Regardless of what your contracts state, customers expect 100 percent availability from you. To meet those expectations and SLAs, you have to purchase reliable hardware and software, you have to provide outstanding customer service, you have to backup customer data, and you have to provide monitoring and alerting services. If you fail to provide any one of those major cornerstone services to your customers, your business will likely also fail. Remember the number one rule of customer feedback: If you make a customer happy, that customer might tell one other person, but if you make a customer unhappy, that customer will tell everyone. And these days with rating services, online feedback forums, and social media, your business is only a few negative tweets or one star reviews away from failure.

In the MSP business, customers assume that you have excellent, redundant, unbreakable systems underlying your services, but what they’re really after is a competitive price point and top notch customer service. They also want a fair amount of control over their leased infrastructure. What’s that old saying? Build a better MouSetraP and the world will be a path to your door. Count on it.

If you’re looking to enter the MSP channel and you’re also looking for a partner, check out what IBM can do for you as your upstream partner. IBM supports MSPs with training, technical support, marketing resources, sales resources, and the finest available hardware. Find out how you and IBM can accelerate your business through a valuable strategic partnership.

IBM_logoThis post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

IBM makes it easy for Managed Service Providers

March 6, 2015 Comments off

Managed Service ProvidersIBM’s Technical resources for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) makes it easy for MSPs to stay up to date with the latest technology and trends in the marketplace. Midmarket companies continue to turn to MSPs to manage their infrastructures and IBM’s Partner Program supports the ever-growing number of clients and the increasing complexity of supporting those clients.

IBM has setup a Managed Service Provider area to assist MSPs grow their businesses and their offerings.

Featured resources for MSPs:

  • Power Development Platform (fka Virtual Loaner Program)
  • PartnerWorld University
  • Training
  • Virtual appliance factory
  • IBM Innovation Centers
  • IBM technical validations

The Power Development Platform (PDP) and the Power Development Cloud enables developers by offering no-charge, remote access to IBM hardware, including IBM POWER8, IBM POWER7+, and IBM POWER7 processor-based systems. Developers also have their choice of Linux, IBM’s AIX, and IBM’s i operating systems. However, developers please note that the PDP is for development, porting, and functionality testing only.

Develop, test, and certify your applications free of charge on IBM Power Systems.

The goal of the PDP is to allow developers access to try Linux on Power Systems to create scripting or interpreted language-based applications demonstrating that applications will run as is with no code changes. And 95 percent of Linux x86 applications written in C or C++ port to Linux on Power Systems with no code changes.

With the PDP LPar, you get full root access, vCPU, disk, and networking to fully test your applications on live systems.

IBM’s PartnerWorld University is an online collection of educational materials for IBM partners that includes Solutions, Systems, Sales & Finance, Services, Software, and Industry Solutions Colleges. To gain access to the site, you have to register with your IBM ID and password.

For example, in the Software College, you can access a collection of IBM software product information such as Lotus, Rational, Tivoli, WebSphere, business analytics, information management, and other IBM branded industry solutions. Access more than 1,000 web lectures that cover IBM products and services.

As stated above, IBM partners have access to a huge repository of resources for IBM products and services. However, there are times when an MSP requires a deeper dive into a particular technology. For those needs, IBM provides deeply discounted training and certification tracks to its partners. Some of these opportunities include IBM’s Think Academy, a professional certification center, and Innovation Centers.

You can earn industry valued certifications on IBM software, hardware, PureSystems, solutions, and associated technologies. Check out the list of certification products available to you through the program.

IBM’s 40+ Innovation Centers offer many no-charge seminars, workshops, and training sessions conducted by subject matter experts in its worldwide locations.

Take deep dives into topics such as: Cloud, Big Data and Analytics, Mobile, and Social.

The Virtual Appliance Factory (VAF) is a process and methodology along with tools to help independent software vendors (ISVs) prepackage application solutions for deployment in KVM and IBM PowerVM virtualized environments. The VAF is a set of Web 2.0 tools for you to use to create your virtual appliances. Additionally, you also receive educational materials and access to other resources to accelerate your appliance creation and deployment.

The VAF features several benefits including minimal investment for entry into cloud computing, the capability to create virtual appliances that are readily deployable into DMTF OVF compatible data centers, and enables your business to take advantage of the cloud’s automation, self-service, and agility features.

The IBM technical validation area offers its partners the ability to test your products using IBM solutions, integration assistance, and development assistance during the validation process. You also gain valuable exposure to other IBM partners and may earn the right to display IBM marks in your packaging and marketing materials.

Partnering with IBM helps MSPs capitalize on new market opportunities, offer new services, provide excellent support, and have access to IBM’s expertise and resources making it easy for MSPs to grow and to be successful.

IBM_logoThis post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

MSPs and you: When service levels meet requirements

March 2, 2015 Comments off

“Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” –Mr. Spock, The Wrath of Khan

Managed ServicesAs Managed Service Providers (MSPs) move more into the mainstream, business customers will have to learn to strike a balance between service requests, service levels, and service requirements. There doesn’t have to be a communication breakdown between parties, but there often is when service levels collide with requirements. Most MSPs distinguish themselves from standard hosting companies by providing several avenues for the business customer to submit requests, troubleshoot problems, and resolve outages that affect business continuity.

Most MSPs have Network Operations Centers (NOCs) that monitor and manage outages and alerts on a 24x7x365 basis as part of their overall service level agreement with the customer. Many have Help Desks that are staffed around the clock or during extended business hours. And in the case of maintenance windows, planned outages, and patching, MSPs notify customers in advance. However, emergency patching, unplanned outages, and loss of service are part of any IT-related business.

The MSP Alliance defines managed services in the following way:

“Managed Services is the proactive management of an IT (Information Technology) asset or object, by a third party typically known as a MSP, on behalf of a customer. The operative distinction that sets apart a MSP is the proactive delivery of their service, as compared to reactive IT services, which have been around for decades.”

As stated in the definition, it is the proactive service delivery that often creates problems between MSPs and their customers. Proactive delivery can mean downtime for customers to apply critical patches or to perform required maintenance.

This post uses the following definitions for service requests, service levels, and service requirements:

  • Service requests – requests by the customer for some type of service from the MSP.
  • Service levels – expected, and agreed to, response times and activities that are part of the paid for service.
  • Service requirements – regular maintenance, planned down times, patching, security requirements, regulatory compliance, and confidentiality.

For example, if your service experiences a security breach, the MSP may take your service offline until the situation is resolved. Typically the MSP will notify you of the breach and of the in-progress repair. The MSP has other business customers that can’t be put at risk by your compromised service.

The MSP has a service agreement with every customer and you have to realize that your service is no more or less critical than any other, that is, unless you’re paying for a premium level of service with guaranteed response and delivery. Does this all mean that the MSP can ignore your needs or service requests? Certainly not, but you have to understand that the MSP is your business ally, your business partner, and your business advocate. But, they also work for the good of all their customers.

When comparing MSPs, find out which upstream partnerships they’ve formed. In other words, educate yourself on who’s responsible for assisting your MSP with their infrastructure. Who are their partners? What are their service levels? What is their guaranteed response time from vendors during an outage?

Whether you’re looking for Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, or Software-as-a-Service, find the right partner for you.
IBM_logoThis post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

How a Managed Service Provider Can Help Your IT Career Hit the Big Leagues

October 18, 2013 Comments off

[Contributed article by Patrick Zelten]


There is a saying among baseball players in the Dominican Republic that “No one ever walked their way off the island.” It’s used to explain why players from that region are such “free swingers.”

While conventional baseball strategy might dictate that you only swing at good pitches, and that a walk is as good as a hit, players from the Dominican Republic know they may only get one chance to impress a Major League Baseball (MLB) scout and get signed to a contract that will get them off the island and to the USA. And the only way to impress those scouts is to hit the ball hard. So they pass on doing what’s expected in order to focus on doing something that will get them noticed.

That’s an approach ambitious IT managers should embrace when it comes to how they spend their time. However, typically the majority of their time is spent keeping the lights on – i.e. performing all the routine maintenance tasks that keep current hardware and software running smoothly. In fact, according to Gartner the budget is broken into two parts — continuing IT operations costs or “keep the lights on” money (circa 65%), and new projects for business improvement and change (circa 35%). Source: Gartner CEO Advisory: Three Changes You Can Make to the Way IT Innovation is Framed, Mark Raskino, Jackie Fenn (28 June 2013).

It’s important work. Perhaps even mission-critical in some respects. Yet it’s also what’s expected, mere table stakes. In fact, you might say that while letting the lights go off regularly will certainly get you noticed in a negative way, meeting expected service levels—no matter how much skill, time and effort it reflects—will likely do little to advance your career.

To become a superstar within the organization, you need to do something spectacular – something that helps transform the business for the better, or at least delivers noticeable value to it. You need a home run, not a walk. But how can you hit that home run when the bulk of your day is spent monitoring, tweaking, patching and otherwise tending to the day-to-day needs of the organization’s technology?

This is where bringing on a managed service provider (MSP) can help. If you can hand off most of the 65 percent “keeping the lights on” duties to an MSP, you will gain back time for you and your staff to perform more meaningful work. The right MSP can also bring you new ideas that have worked with other companies or in other industries – ideas you can suggest to your management that make you look brilliant. And “brilliant” is definitely a good reputation to have when you’re looking for a career boost.

Striking out the fears

 So why don’t more IT managers bring in an MSP? For many, it could be a misunderstanding about what an MSP is. They may still think of it as 1990s-style outsourcing, where entire internal IT departments were shut down and their functions moved to an offshore provider to drive down costs.

Here in the second decade of the 21st Century, an MSP is not a replacement for an IT department. It’s an enhancement to it.

The objective in bringing in an MSP isn’t to reduce head count; it’s to free those minds to develop the innovations and make the kinds of contributions that only internal personnel, with their deep knowledge of the business, can create in order to add value to the business.

IT managers may also hesitate to bring in an MSP if their performance reviews depend on documenting a high uptime. In those cases, they may feel pressure to take personal responsibility for performing the actual work. Yet the evaluators don’t really care who keeps the lights on, so long as they stay on. By choosing the right MSP, and holding them to a higher service level agreement (SLA) than the organization might be able to commit to internally, IT managers can still meet or even exceed performance goals without having to invest a lot of time in the day-to-day operations that make achieving “five nines” uptime possible.

One other factor that may be preventing the move is concern about a loss of control. IT managers may fear that the MSP will come in and start dictating policy or telling their staff what to do. Yet that’s not the way a proper MSP/client relationship works.

Instead, the MSP should be viewed as an extension of your IT department, operating under the same business policies, security protocols, approval and rule change procedures etc. as internal personnel. It’s still your IT environment. The MSP may make suggestions, but in the end it’s you who makes the decisions.

Going to Bat

Once you’ve decided bringing in an MSP is a good idea, it’s time to go to bat for them; in other words, build the business case. Generally this involves identifying an area of need and showing how the MSP can fill it immediately.

The MSP should be able to assist you with demonstrating the business value. They can help you identify areas of need, develop service level agreements (SLAs) that meet or even exceed your internal department’s current performance and lay out penalties if those SLAs are not met.

For many organizations, the business case for bringing in an MSP is made based on staffing needs. For example, perhaps you’re having trouble finding or retaining the right skillsets to maintain the level of security demanded by the business. You can show how bringing in an MSP that already knows the security technology you’re using can solve the problem faster, and more cost-efficiently, than hiring and training a new internal staff member. After proving themselves with this project you can use it as a lever for other work.

You might also consider using an MSP to provide local (or remote) support for one or more branch offices. As they demonstrate their value the program can grow until they are providing support for multiple solutions, or even the entire organization.

A third possibility is in cases of rapid growth, where it is difficult for the internal department to keep up with technology patches, upgrades, user provisioning and other maintenance-type work. The cost to hire, train and provide benefits for internal resources to meet the peak demand versus bringing in an MSP to fill the gaps will likely easily justify the MSP; once they have demonstrated their value it will be easier to explain how they can take on additional work.

Of course, in the end you have justify the cost by demonstrating the ROI. If the MSP can deliver the service faster and at a higher level than your internal department, that’s great. If in doing so they allow your team to get to other work that improves profitability or creates a distinct business advantage, that’s even better.

Swinging for the Fences

Beyond the what and the how comes the “why?” Why you should make the effort to bring an MSP on board and integrate them with your in-house team? The reason is that there are several ways working with an MSP can help advance your career.

As mentioned previously, the most obvious is by giving you and your team time to do great things instead of spending your days merely keeping the lights on. Rather than punching out a few singles or taking a walk here and there and hoping someone notices, you can really swing for the fences with dramatic projects that have sweeping, long-term impact on the organization.

Beyond that, though, by working with an MSP you’ll gain access to a broad range of knowledge and experience your team may not possess. In their role as consultants, the MSP can offer suggestions on ways to approach a business issue that your team may not have thought of. They will likely be able to help you build the business case by pointing to other successful implementation in which they’ve participated.

An MSP can help drive cost optimization as well by providing focus on your maintenance tasks. For your internal staff, maintenance involves things that have to be done, even though they may not be the most exciting. For the MSP, however, that is their primary focus with your organization, and in order to keep the engagement they must do it well. This focus will help you ensure your environment is kept current with all patches and updates. It will also help you avoid staffing challenges by having a “bench” to call on when the situation requires it. It could even help you lower your costs. Most importantly, though, it will give you and your staff time to focus on areas that are core to driving the business, which will make you look like an all-star to the front office.

The overall impact of these contributions is they show you to be more strategic and less tactical. Which is exactly the impression you want to make when you’re looking to advance your career.

Make It to the Game

homeplateJust as no one ever walked their way off the island in baseball, it’s highly unlikely you’ll advance your career by doing only what’s expected. You need to do things that have a positive, noticeable effect on the business.

Working with an MSP can give you the time, knowledge and resources to make a major league improvement in your organization while helping you move to the top of the lineup for your next job. And that’s a home run in anyone’s book.

Patrick Zelten is the vice president of managed services for Forsythe, a North American IT infrastructure integrator headquartered outside Chicago. He can be reached at

Transforming your company with cloud, mobile and MSPs

August 6, 2013 1 comment

coffeeI just watched a video where IBM and two IBM partners discuss Managed Service Providers (MSPs), cloud, mobile, and transforming your business with technology. The video is part of a new IBM series targeting SMBs and demonstrating how cloud, mobile, and their MSP partners can transform or launch your business for very little money. They call the series Coffee and Conversation. It’s a casual and relaxed conversation over coffee about technological transformation. The two companies represented in this first video are CloudView and WakaDigital.

The message of the video is clear: MSPs can help transform or launch your business for little money and give you the global exposure and agility required to succeed in today’s market.

It sounds simple and it is simple.

Personally, if I were to launch a new business today, I would not lease office space. I wouldn’t buy or even lease a bunch of hardware for my own server room. I certainly wouldn’t go into massive and crushing debt to acquire the hardware, software, support staff, maintenance contracts, and the myriad of costly services and personnel required to run the business.

I would work out of my home, comfortably in my home office, and use an MSP and cloud technologies to empower me to:

  • Appear as a larger company.
  • Quickly spin up a usable computing infrastructure.
  • Enable my customers to interact with me via mobile and cloud technologies.
  • Allow customers to purchase my products and services securely online.
  • Be everywhere at once.

Now I know that sounds far-fetched but it isn’t. Finding the right business partners is essential to your success. Your MSP is your business partner. It provides everything you need to run your business from a technology perspective.

All you have to worry about is how to manage your supply chain, contingent workers, and accounting. But guess what? IBM has a solution for all of those problems too. Their partners cover the gamut of every needed service and possible line of support that you need.

As Leila Ashley (CloudView) says in the video, this new agile business model “levels the playing field” for SMBs who need to compete with hungry start-ups, as well as, established, well-funded enterprises. Ms. Ashley goes on to zero in on an important aspect of this new business model by stating that they can launch an e-commerce site in a day’s time instead of a week. What she’s telling you is that you can effectively have an idea at 8AM and realize that dream by 5PM the same day.

You don’t have to wait for proof of concepts, ordering new hardware, procuring software, installing, patching, and updating any operating systems or applications. You have an agile, automated solution waiting for you with very few obstacles and very low entry barriers.

Business is different today than it was even ten years ago. Cloud technologies and agile systems allow us to respond to changing business needs, to test new products and new markets without a heavy capital investment, and without long delays. We can now respond within the windows of opportunity that present themselves to us. That is true agility.

And what about businesses that can’t make the transition?

Denise Garth (IBM) makes an excellent point in the video by observing that businesses either will transform or possibly become irrelevant.

Forty years ago, you weren’t relevant if you didn’t have a Yellow Pages ad. Ten years ago, you weren’t relevant if you didn’t have a website. Today and tomorrow, you might become irrelevant if you can’t meet the challenges of a transformed business. Sure, some might say that business is business and people don’t change but, on the other hand, technology has transformed the customer into a technologically-connected buyer. That’s relevant to any business.

Businesses must transform to meet the needs of the new customer paradigm. Online, agile, cloud-oriented, connected, mobile, and social media-savvy is the new business paradigm.

IBM’s MSP partners can help you transform your business. Level the playing field by contacting IBM and its partners and go have a cup of coffee.

While you’re sipping on that hot cup of bean juice, take a look at how other companies just like yours are being transformed.

IBM for Midsize Business

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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Leveraging Next-Generation MSPs for Agile Business Strategies

May 28, 2013 Comments off

MSP-300x160Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have taken on a whole new role in the IT service and support business—that of the Agile Business Enabler. And this moniker isn’t just another marketing buzzterm, it’s a real thing. Since Chuck Calio has told us What a next-generation MSP looks like and Timothy Tsao has told us not only what a next-generation MSP looks like but also how it acts, I’ve decided to focus on one particular aspect (#4) of Timothy’s described actions—agility.

In my opinion, agility is the most important “action” that an MSP can take to increase its business by enabling its customers to become more responsive to marketing campaigns, to changing business needs, and to the needs of its customer’s customers.

Business agility is the ability of a business to respond to, to act on, and to predict business trends. Whether those trends are  driven by new technologies, by the latest fad, or by the season; businesses need to respond quickly and decisively to these changes. The role of the MSP is to enable their customers to do this seamlessly and without intervention.

Become a Next-Generation MSP

Become a Next-Generation MSP at Edge 2013

The best strategy for MSPs to enable businesses to become agile is to create customer portals that allow for automated infrastructure management. Many MSPs already have such portals in place but perhaps the missing link is the scalability of the solutions offered to customers.

As Timothy Tsao suggests, one way to offer agile solutions is to invest in next-generation systems and storage that allow customers to “spin up client applications and new services in minutes, not days.”

That single term, “investment” is the most important one in that sentence. As both Tsao and Calio state, cloud services are trending toward commoditization. Investment in next generation technologies requires capital expenditure, which means a lag time between that investment and its financial return. This situation often results in a fiscal Catch 22. You can’t invest until you have the business justification for it and you can’t acquire new business until you’ve made the investment.

I believe that MSPs must take the risk and invest in a “Field of Dreams” approach to acquiring new business and enhancing services for current customers.

The way MSPs become next-generation MSPs is through investment and through this new agility-enabled approach to their customer’s businesses. In other words, for MSPs to realize a next-generation shift, they must focus on their customer’s businesses and their customer’s customers. That, in part, is how I define “next generation.” The MSP must not only invest in new technology but also must focus on that next generation of customers.

See Also:

IBM Offers $4 Billion in SMB Financing

IBM’s Global Financing Site

IBM’s Rapid Online Financing

IBM for Midsize Business

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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