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Posts Tagged ‘MSP’

Start Your Own MSP Business with Pulseway’s SaaS Enterprise Server

July 14, 2015 Comments off

Pulseway Enterprise ServerPulseway SaaS Enterprise Server
Pulseway
Pricing

Pulseway’s new SaaS Enterprise Server enables small Managed Service Providers to leverage the cloud for system and service monitoring, real-time alert notification, and granular remote management of a diverse array of operating systems and applications. If you’ve ever wanted to go into business for yourself as an MSP, there’s no better time or no better software to get you there.

When you think of managed services or managed services providers (MSPs), you might assume that they’re all staffed by dozens or perhaps hundreds of people working around the clock to support their customers. That might be true for a small percentage of MSPs, but did you know that most MSP businesses have fewer than 50 employees? The MSP space is growing at a double-digit pace and some MSPs report triple-digit growth. And this isn’t a trend that just began with the introduction of cloud technologies, it’s been growing at or near this rate since 2000. Smaller MSPs see higher rates of growth than their larger counterparts do.

From the MSPmentor 501: 2013 Edition:

Generally speaking, the largest MSPs continue to enjoy success, but in many cases annual growth rates for large MSPs have slowed to single-digits. The fastest-growing MSPs are those that successfully blended mobile, hybrid cloud and application-level management. Also, many of the top-rated MSPs are thriving in extremely targeted markets – such as the hedge fund vertical.

If you think that the MSP market is saturated, it isn’t. In fact, it’s far from it with these kinds of reported growth numbers. MSPs that deliver great service at competitive prices have the most success, even in markets or locations that appear overcrowded.

With Pulseway’s SaaS Enterprise Server, not only can you setup monitoring and alert notifications for a variety of systems, services, and applications, but you can also manage those systems from any device, including mobile devices via Pulseway’s secure apps.

For more videos that demonstrate Pulseway’s mobile management, check out the Pulseway YouTube Channel.

With Pulseway’s service, you can monitor and completely manage Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux systems. You have fully control over each operating system within the same interface. And you can monitor and manage desktop or server systems. Heterogeneous environments are no problem for Pulseway.

You can configure custom monitoring, alerting, and management for all your systems either through the easy to use Windows application or by editing the /etc/pulseway/config.xml file on Linux and Mac OS X systems.

On Windows, you can optionally select to manage the following advanced services:

You can also manage notifications for host status, ping of various other hosts, storage, website availability, and SSL certification expiration.

Download the Pulseway agents and get started right away with the standard, free option or you can take the 30-day free trial of the SaaS Enterprise Server.

Pulseway’s friendly interface and quick setup are perfect for consultancies and MSPs who want to offer a wider range of services, remote management, and real-time monitoring for their customers. There’s no lengthy training required, no huge licensing fees, no datacenter equipment maintenance, and no hassles or long-term contracts to prevent you from adding Pulseway to your toolbox.

  • Run command line commands (All operating systems).
  • Run PowerShell commands (Windows).
  • Carry on real-time chat with users.
  • Logoff the current user or lock the desktop.
  • Restart, Shutdown, Power off, Suspend, or Hibernate the system.
  • Enter Maintenance Mode.
  • Perform Windows Updates.
  • Uninstall software.
  • Manage security settings.
  • Kill or restart processes.
  • View Event Logs.
  • View disk space and browse filesystems.

From a technical perspective, Pulseway’s management capability gives you deep insight into your monitored systems. From command line interface, to service management, to filesystem access; you have it all at your fingertips, literally, with Pulseway’s mobile app. You can stop, start, and restart services. You can issue commands at the command line with any operating system. On Windows, you have the added capability of being able to issue PowerShell cmdlets. You can apply Windows Updates to Windows operating systems. You can update Linux systems via the command line. And you can connect via RDP to your Windows systems for a full graphical desktop-level experience.

“It is an invaluable tool to follow up on alerts from our monitoring system while on the road – no need to connect via VPN and log on to the troubled server. The support for Pulseway is awesome.”

Brian Hansen, System Administrator / eBay

Pulseway is a frugal choice for MSPs and consultants because you don’t have to spend a lot of money to setup your own infrastructure, you don’t have to hire a team of support people to monitor and manage it, and you don’t have to worry about some crazy licensing scheme that extracts all of your profits from your business.

Pulseway is enterprise monitoring, alerting, and management for all your computers that allows you to monitor 24x7x365, receive alerts, respond to problems no matter where you are, and from any device.

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Get To Know an MSP: Kalleo Technologies

May 5, 2015 Comments off

Kalleo TechnologiesKalleo Technologies
Managed IT Support Services
Paducah, KY
(270) 908-4136
info@kalleo.net
sales@kalleo.net

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.

IBM_logo

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.

MSPs, How Do You Get The Word Out?

April 19, 2015 Comments off

Get the Word Out!At the recent (March 26 and 27, 2015) MSPWorld keynote, Charles Weaver, CEO of MSPAlliance (The International Association of Cloud and Managed Service Providers, established 2000), discussed how alliance members should beef up their marketing efforts. And if the CEO of the MSPAlliance recognizes that there’s a gap, there’s clearly a gap in getting the word out to potential customers about their services. Traditionally marketing to potential customers meant direct mail, targeted campaigns, cold calling, email distribution lists, billboard ads, referrals, magazine ads, and online ads; but MSPs have found that generally speaking most of these methods are ineffectual. Historically MSPs have mostly relied on word-of-mouth referrals to bring new customers into the fold.

What does work for MSPs in getting the word out about their services?

Of the many different marketing strategies, referrals, blogs, email marketing, Requests for Proposals (RFPs), and cross selling offer the best returns to MSPs. Although referrals are very good in converting connections into sales, the number of them is very low. For an MSP to be successful, it has to launch a multi-front marketing campaign.

Referrals

Referrals from current customers seems to be the number one method of attracting new business for MSPs. The reason that MSPs hold referrals in such high regard is that this type of business prospecting has a high rate of return and has a very low cost to the MSP in terms of financial outlay and time required for the sales process.

Making a referral network work is a fairly easy task. Ask your customers if they could refer your services to at least one company in their customer base or within their sphere of influence. As your network grows through referrals, continue to ask for referrals from each new customer.

However effective, this type of organic growth is slow and requires some relationship nurturing to assist and to fuel the process.

Blogs

Blogs, especially guest posts in a corporate blog by customers, are effective in increasing customer base. Potential customers can read about how other companies have solved similar problems using your services and expertise. That gives the reader an immediate connection to your business and your solutions that can help them.

Sphere of Influence – a business network where companies or their officers or principals have some expressed or implied influence over others because of mutual trust, a working relationship, a partnership, or out of respect between the parties.

What you don’t want a blog to be is a pure sales pitch or a marketing tool. You want to be sure to inform and educate your reader about how your services have increased sales, streamlined processes, made it easier to buy, increased customer service, or boosted profits.

Make your blog entries about the customer and not about you. Provide real data and real customer testimonials where possible. Numbers speak louder than marketing fluff. Keep posts concise by telling a compelling story in 750 words or fewer. Post new blog entry URLs to all social media outlets to gain a diverse readership.

Email Marketing

Email distribution lists, whether created from correspondences or acquired by rental from a list broker are often a good source of prospective customers. The return rate is typically not what one would expect from such a contemporary medium. The rate of conversion is even lower. Expected rates of return are in the single digits and conversion rates are in the single digits of those returns.

The upside to email marketing is that it’s inexpensive, even if you rent or buy lists. It’s also an excellent method of getting your name in front of a lot of business influencers whether or not they buy anything from you. It often takes several iterations of a message to receive one positive return.

Rather than creating generic email messages touting your products, it’s often more effective to create a newsletter and distribute it via those lists. Newsletters aren’t seen as spam and potential customers read them with enthusiasm. To make your newsletters a welcome Inbox addition, include industry news, links to your blog entries, and information about your company and its services. Don’t make it to “salesy.” You want people to see it as having value and not just as an opportunity to deliver unwanted pitches for your services.

Optionally you can setup an opt-in/opt-out mailing list for your customers or website visitors.

Requests for Proposals

Requests for Proposals (RFPs) can be used to acquire new business by entering into competitive bid situations. RFPs often require some moderate amount of effort to create a sale because of the bidding process and submission of detailed information about your company, its leadership, its capabilities, delivery times, Service Level Agreements, and related information.

Sometimes the bidding process is lengthy (months), but the dollar amounts are also higher for these types of agreements.

Cross Selling

Cross selling is one of the most effective methods of gaining new business for MSPs. It involves selling additional services to existing customers or entering into cross promotional agreements with other vendors. Cross selling is a low cost marketing method because you’re selling to a customer who’s already bought into your services. Return on investment is very high.

Cross selling deepens the vendor-customer relationship and builds loyalty for both parties.

Social Media

Although relatively new to the marketing scene, social media selling has become one of the hottest new marketing strategies for all businesses. MSPs can ride this wave by engaging its current and its potential customers in conversations via social media. Feedback, ratings, and testimonials are all very powerful drivers of new business.

Tweet blog post URLs, post to your Facebook page often, ask for guest posts on your blog and Facebook page, engage your customers via LinkedIn, post your blog URLs to LinkedIn, and to all LinkedIn groups of which you’re a member. You have to use social media to your advantage. Check in when you’re out to lunch with a customer and tag him or her on Facebook to let everyone know that you’re entertaining a customer.

Start a conversation on Twitter with your customers. The easiest way to start a conversation is to ask a question. Gain followers by using relevant hashtags and posting often to all of your social media sites. Follow all of your customers and their customers. Follow influencers, thought leaders, and technology journalists.

Media

Use media connections and technology journalists to your advantage by scheduling interviews to be posted on their outlet sites. Use social media to promote those posts once their published. Public Relations and brand marketing firms can help you connect with the correct people for your business.

Upstream Partnerships

Your upstream partners can also send a steady flow of traffic to your site and to your attention. Your upstream partner should give you qualified leads that will help expand and extend your business. A good partner will offer you training, significant hardware and software discounts, marketing assistance, and some visibility as to who your customer base is. Leverage your partner’s resources to grow your business. Remember that a partnership works in both directions. The more you engage your partner, the more your partner will engage you and your business.

If you’re an MSP that offers top notch services to your customers, you need to get the word out. First, start in your network by asking for those referrals and then expand by putting some simple, time-tested marketing techniques to work for you. You can continue to grow your business year over year by applying marketing pressure in the right places. And don’t forget to engage your upstream partner to help with your growth because it benefits both of you.

IBM_logo

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.

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

October 18, 2013 Comments off

[Contributed article by Patrick Zelten]

BatterUp

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 pzelten@forsythe.com.

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