The business landscape is becoming more competitive and having the right operational strategy in place can help organizations differentiate themselves, improve margins and free up resources to invest in core priorities. Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in particular are realizing that they can adopt a managed services approach to many mission-critical operational functions, including technology training, cybersecurity/compliance strategies, workflow and process improvements, policy development and implementation, and onboarding new technologies. MSPs investing in professional services practices will be uniquely positioned to provide SMB clients with affordable, high-quality alternatives to trying to carry out these functions with thin or non-existent in-house expertise. For smaller companies that may not have dedicated staff, these unique, value-added services can complement managed IT, security, SD-WAN and other MSP wares.
The Internet of Things
The rise of connected devices has been spinning up for years now – but IoT devices are finally crossing the chasm into the mainstream, with 10 billion of them expected to be deployed by the end of next year, according to Iota. A full 22 billion are expected to be in the field by 2025. Much of the business investment will come from “smart manufacturing” deployments, logistics/fulfillment and transportation – but everything from connected video displays to product sensors to smart lightbulbs and thermostats will find their way into a range of offices going forward.
All of this promises to revolutionize how businesses collect, manage and use data to inform strategic operational decisions. However, as with any emerging technology, there’s a substantial gap between the possibilities and practicality. Among other things, implementing an IoT ecosystem requires a solid cybersecurity strategy, an end-to-end device management stack, and options for managing bandwidth and connectivity – a tall order for many resource-constrained SMBs. Fortunately, the right MSP can help businesses bridge the gap by designing and deploying IoT solutions that add long-term value to their operations.
Digital transformation is continuing for organizations of all sizes as they look to harness the power of virtualization, DevOps and on-demand everything to accelerate their businesses and gain competitive advantage. To support these efforts, the rise of multi-cloud architecture will be the most significant trend in cloud for 2020.
Multi-cloud refers to the strategic decision to use multiple private and public cloud providers to meet different technical or business requirements. More specifically, applications and microservices can be built using component services from different cloud providers, depending on their specific requirements. There are multiple benefits of this approach, ranging from avoiding vendor lock-in and building redundancy, to segregating for security and exploiting best-of-breed solutions.
However, building these new platforms takes expertise in planning, migrating, optimizing and securing infrastructure across multiple cloud vendors – and multi-cloud being a new area, many businesses are at loss for where to turn to acquire it.
Automation can dramatically reduce workloads in IT and server environments. As standard processes become increasingly automated, look for complex and proprietary automations to become new sources of competitive advantage for MSPs. From onboarding to helpdesks to billing – and everything in between – opportunities for automation scripts to drive new efficiencies abound.
MSPs are perfect partners to help companies through all of the stages of this digital transformation journey. Managed planning services include evaluating infrastructure needs, assessing vulnerabilities and planning for disaster recovery and business continuity; migration involves selecting applications and services to implement in the cloud; optimization requires evaluating tradeoffs between performance, agility and efficiency, on the right combination of platforms; and, security requires protecting apps and data from breaches, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks and the remediation of malware threats.
2020 promises to provide plenty of opportunities for managed services to play a crucial role in companies’ growth trajectories through professional services, IoT and multicloud rollouts. If you are looking for a good company to join forces with, contact us today.
About the Author
Lori Hannan is the Product Manager for the MSx Managed SD-WAN Service for TPx Communications, a leading provider of UCaaS, Managed IT services and Managed Connectivity services, with approximately 30,000 customers and 53,000 customer locations across the U.S. Hannan has more than five years’ experience in SD-WAN technology and networks. She recently launched a second managed SD-WAN solution for TPx, which has been a great success. Previous to her network career, she worked with a variety of voice solutions and also launched a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) cloud-based managed solution.
If you are still using an on-premises Microsoft Exchange Server deployment, you are not alone. According to a 2018 study, 61% of Exchange mailboxes deployed worldwide are still on-premises while 39% are Cloud Exchange mailboxes. The growth of Cloud Exchange mailboxes is exploding, so it’s a good time for any organization to evaluate how a cloud email deployment can help – regardless of what version of Exchange you are currently using on premises.
What is happening?
If you are one of the thousands of organizations still running Exchange Server 2010, this is even more important. Why? Because on January 14, 2020, Exchange Server 2010 will reach end of support. Exchange Server 2010, like most Microsoft products, had a defined lifecycle of 10 years. During that time, Microsoft maintained the product by making bug fixes, patches, and security updates. Applying these fixes on a regular and consistent basis kept your Exchange Server 2010 environment healthy, performing optimally, and, most importantly, secure.
Why is it important to my organization?
When these fixes are no longer available after January 14, 2020, your Exchange Server 2010 deployment will become vulnerable to any new exploit created by hackers. While a vulnerability like this is not unique to Microsoft or to Exchange Server 2010 (remember the 2016 exploit of Apple’s QuickTime for Windows?), it is an especially critical threat because email remains one of the most vulnerable parts of any IT infrastructure. In fact, 92% of all malware is introduced into organizations through email1.
What should I do about it?
Now is the time to act. Organizations need to start planning to migrate from Exchange Server 2010 to a current version of Exchange. For most organizations, this means a migration to Exchange Online – Microsoft’s hosted email for businesses (which is also included in most Microsoft Office 365 plans). According to a 2018 Bitglass study, over 56% of organizations have deployed Office 365 already.
Here are some of the reasons to consider Exchange Online:
- Automatic Updates and Maintenance: Microsoft is constantly enhancing Exchange Online. New features become available automatically, and similarly, the platform is automatically patched and maintained by Microsoft. You can be sure that all of the secure infrastructure management is being done, your business can always take advantage of the latest features, and you will never need to worry about the “End of Life” of your Exchange environment again!
- Anytime/Anywhere Access: Because it’s cloud-based, users can access Exchange Online from any Internet-connected device. Robust security management features help you control and secure this access so you can enhance employee productivity while maintaining appropriate security.
- Large Mailbox Sizes: Every few years, Microsoft increases the mailbox size for Exchange Online. Today, Exchange Online offers either a 50GB or 100GB mailbox size. This capacity is significant enough that the majority of employees no longer need to worry about managing their mailbox size. (I personally have about 60,000 emails and attachments in my mailbox, and it’s only 10GB!)
- Enhanced Security: Every Exchange Online version comes with Exchange Online Protection – Microsoft’s built-in anti-spam and anti-malware protection. In addition, organizations can further enhance security using Microsoft Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). ATP provides an additional layer of protection with advanced filtering and sandboxing capabilities. So, there’s no need to buy, implement, and manage third-party solutions for security.
- In-Place Archive: Exchange Online Archiving provides advanced archiving capabilities. It also allows users to easily and automatically move emails to an archive folder, which is accessed right from within their Outlook profile. This keeps their primary mailbox small and fast, while allowing easy access to all email.
- Compliance: Exchange Online meets major compliance standards such as HIPAA/HITECH, SOC 1 & 2, and ISO 27001. Compliance is not configured out-of-the-box, though, so make sure you have a skilled compliance admin to help you. More information on compliance can be found here.
- Data Loss Prevention (DLP): With DLP, available in Exchange Online Plan 2, you can help keep sensitive information from leaving your organization. Whether it’s a Social Security Number, a credit card number, or other confidential information, you can easily set policies to block it. DLP enables you to flexibly engage with users to maintain the right mix of security and productivity for your organization.
There are many other great features and benefits of Exchange Online and Office 365, too many to describe here in this short post. If you have not done so already, make sure your management and IT team are evaluating these great solutions.
What if I need help?
We get it, you have been running the same version of Microsoft Exchange Server for many years. Your team’s expertise is not planning for and executing email migrations, and you really only get one chance to do it right. IT can be pretty scary. That’s where you can leverage the expertise of an experienced Managed Service Provider (MSP) like TPx. Leveraging the know-how of a Microsoft-certified organization that has done hundreds of migrations can help ensure that it happens cost-efficiently and effectively with minimal disruption to your business. In addition, an experienced Managed Service Provider can professionally manage technical support, system administration, and platform configuration management, freeing up your internal IT team to address other important tasks. (By the way, Exchange Online is part of all the Office 365 versions TPx sells. You can also get it as a standalone product, in case you don’t have a need for the rest of Office 365.)
Burying your head in the sand is not the right approach. Not properly planning for your migration from Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 could have serious implications to your organization. Security breaches cost small businesses billions of dollars each year; even worse, they often result in companies closing their doors for good. Reach out to a trusted advisor like TPx to help you navigate through the process and keep your Exchange environment secure.
About the Author
Joe Royer is the Product Manager for IT/Cloud services at TPx. He has 25 years of industry experience in sales, consulting, and product management for several leading MSPs.
- Source: 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report
You’ve probably heard plenty of chatter about Microsoft Office 365. You might even be familiar with some of its tools and features. But if you aren’t already using the cloud-based solution, chances are that you’re not aware of the difference Office 365 can make for your employees and their productivity.
In our experience, the primary inhibitor to businesses adopting Office 365 is lack of resources: IT personnel are busy with other initiatives, and migrating data to the cloud can be difficult without in-house expertise. But with TPx at your side, you can unleash the power of Office 365, which is so much more than just Microsoft Office in the cloud. The list of benefits is long, but we’ve narrowed them down to these six keys to helping you grow your business:
1. Simplified Administration
Dealing with software licenses can be a headache. But Office 365 includes all licensing and it can be deployed company wide, ensuring that all employees have the same version of Microsoft apps and automatic updates at the same time. Employees also can log on from any device at home or in the office. Since each user can install Office 365 on up to five devices, a mobile BYOD (bring your own device) policy is much easier to manage. In addition, data backup, security and recovery are managed by Microsoft.
2. Mobile Access
With Office 365, your calendar and all of your contacts and emails are automatically synchronized with your mobile devices, allowing you to access and edit files in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote from anywhere, anytime. All you need to do is add your work account to the Microsoft Office app and you can easily edit the files you have saved in OneDrive for Business.
3. Lowers Costs/Capex
With TPx Managed Office 365, you don’t have to worry about servers (or the related energy costs and office space to store them) or rely on a heavy in-house IT department. TPx Microsoft Certified Solutions experts act as an extension of your IT team to handle all onboarding and ongoing support so you don’t have to. In addition, you can swap out DropBox for Microsoft OneDrive and use Skype for Business in the place of GoToMeeting to save money.
4. Powerful Collaboration
Office 365 enables your employees to communicate via instant messaging and work collaboratively on documents and files in SharePoint. You can set your own document management and sharing criteria, allowing you to quickly share files and build intranets, extranets and project-oriented collaboration sites. Microsoft Office 365 also offers a video delivery solution with built-in encoding and management tools to streamline the process of uploading video and building video portals. And video is stored and streamed from Microsoft Azure using Microsoft’s global network.
5. Scalability and Flexibility
Office 365 grows with your organization, allowing you to add or remove users by simply adding or removing licenses. You’re not locked into a contract – you’re only committed to your service package for a month at a time with a flexible monthly subscription model. Office 365 also allows you to mix-and-match apps to customize solutions for different users or departments.
6. Robust Security and Compliance
With Office 365, Microsoft systems scan your messages and documents for spam and malicious software, and Microsoft data centers help safeguard your data. Essentially, you get built-in security and it’s easy to remotely wipe all data if you lose a mobile device. Additionally, multiple add-ons let you tailor Office 365 to specific industry regulations and data compliance requirements. For example, security and encryption settings can be customized to comply with HIPAA, FISMA, ISO 27001, and more.
These features, combined with TPx’s state-of-the-art operations security center (SOC), managed firewall and business continuity solutions, are a potent combination.
The bottom line is that, in today’s competitive business environment, your business can’t afford not to use Office 365, especially when you can lean on TPx Microsoft Certified Solutions Experts for the migration, onboarding and ongoing support.
About the Author
Ross Spero is a Sr. Product Manager for ITx Managed Services. His products including TPx’s managed IT offerings for Microsoft Office 365, Workstations and Servers RMM, and Backup. Ross received his undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon and is currently earning his Executive MBA from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. He resides in Seattle.
With so many people working from home these days, the number of “office” locations has grown exponentially in recent years. In fact, 31 percent of remote workers reported being out of the office four to five days a week— up from 24 percent in 2012, according to a recent Gallup survey. And about one in five employees are working from home full-time now, the study suggests.
To be sure, employees are pressing companies to break down historical structures and policies that traditionally have influenced their workdays. And employers are accommodating, primarily for three reasons:
- The practice is seen as beneficial because remote workers not only work longer hours, they are also more productive and happier.
- It’s easier to recruit and retain talented employees when unrestricted by geography.
- Organizations now have access to technologies that enable remote workers to be more collaborative and productive than ever.
To that last point, emerging cloud technologies are transforming the way work gets done. By using technology solutions like UCx and Managed Office 365, workers increasingly are doing their jobs virtually or remotely – and at various times of the day – instead of from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. And the primary inhibitor for working at home remotely – loneliness – is no longer an issue because these technologies keep colleagues virtually connected. With these high-tech communications tools in place, mingling and collaboration are as easy – and as fun – as congregating by the water cooler.
In fact, contrary to early concerns about remote workers, employees who spend 60 percent to 80 percent of their time away from the office have the highest rates of engagement, according to Gallup. It makes sense when you think about it: a video chat or conference to share ideas and documents with a colleague is only a keystroke away.
These new tech and tools are not just being used by remote workers at home. Multilocation businesses are employing them along with private networking, Internet, SIP Trunking and SD-WAN services, among others, to support the growing business and technical demands driven by the proliferation of critical applications, cloud services and mobile devices.
Scalability and flexibility are key. To meet the unique needs, goals and budgets of our business customers, TPx offers these services through a single-source, mix-and-match approach that delivers truly customized solutions for every business scenario. Our customers reap the benefits of constant access to the latest-and-greatest technologies without the headache and expense of managing it all themselves. Small businesses without IT departments get access to the same technologies as larger firms, and larger firms can free up their IT resources for more important proprietary pursuits.
Regardless of which vendor(s) you source for your technologies, using them is becoming a matter of remaining competitive on both sides of the balance sheet. We are experiencing a remarkable digital revolution that is both transforming and distributing the workplace, with web, computing, social and mobile technologies converging to deliver an unprecedented effect on virtually every aspect of business. This convergence is creating new ways for multilocation companies – whether we’re talking storefronts or the home office – to deliver better service, enhanced customer experiences, and retain talent.
About the Author
Matt Mair is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for ITx Managed Services. His role includes marketing and communications for TPx’s suite of managed IT offerings including Managed SD-WAN, LAN Monitoring, Office 365, Workstation and Servers Management, Colocation and Server Backup solutions. Matt holds an MBA from Michigan State University’s Broad School of Business and resides in Los Angeles.
The transition from the old, standalone Microsoft Office products to the cloud-based Office 365 is massive, transformational and accelerating. Microsoft sees 50,000 SMB organizations migrating to Office 365 every month and there are nearly 90 million Office 365 commercial subscribers today, up nearly 40 percent year-over-year, according to Forbes magazine.
Microsoft offers several versions of Office 365, ranging from $5 to $35 per user per month. Many of these plans also include the desktop version of the latest Office applications, which users can install across multiple computers and devices: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. In other words, you don’t always need to be online to use it. Suppose you’re camping out in the woods this summer, and you’ve got zero bars of signal, but you still have to finish up that monthly report – you can work offline and your files will be automatically synced as soon as your connection to the Internet is re-established.
Office 365 is a monthly subscription plan that includes access to Office applications as well as other business productivity services, all hosted in the cloud. These services include Skype IM and web conferencing, Exchange Online hosted email, online storage with OneDrive for business, and many other business productivity applications.
The ability for employees to work anywhere, swap information seamlessly, and use multiple devices under one user subscription license is a tremendous benefit for companies with employees who are based in multiple locations, work remotely, or work flexible hours. And with Office 365, end users can always have the latest version of the software with new features and services being added all the time at no extra charge.
For large organizations, making the move to Office 365 is a no-brainer. They readily make the decision to recruit, train and maintain skilled in-house staff to provide technical Office 365 support for their employees. But for SMBs, the staffing and expertise investment is difficult to justify.
Fortunately, there’s a simple way to level the playing field. TPx’s Managed Office 365 helps smaller enterprises gain the same benefits that the largest companies enjoy, without the challenges of managing it all by themselves. It lowers costs while improving the quality of service provided to their users – a win for users throughout the organization that brings “no-brainer” back into the equation.
In fact, TPx’s ITx for Office 365 managed service complements – and for many customers completes – an Office 365 solution, with our IT engineers and Microsoft Certified Solution Experts (MCSEs) delivering comprehensive configurations and ongoing technical support. And if there’s ever a need to escalate a vexing problem to Microsoft, we’ll manage that for you every step of the way. The payoff? Better end-user IT support, controlled costs, and in-house IT teams freed up to focus on core business issues. Affordable monthly subscription plans make it easy to scale the service to suit both the number of users and the level of support needed.
Office 365 is changing the playing field for many businesses. It has an air of inevitability because its power and flexibility are the keys to competing effectively in a changing 21st century workplace. With exceptional productivity and innovation capabilities that are improving every quarter, the question becomes not “if” but “when” – and “how.”
A migration project is a complex, invasive change for a business, bringing a bit more heat and heartburn than most SMBs are ready to digest. The right recipe for success has three ingredients: using an industry-leading productivity platform in Office 365; using certified IT engineers to run the project that will get you there; and using the ITx managed service to keep it working. Do it right, do it once.
About the Author
Ross Spero lives in Seattle, WA and is a Sr. Product Manager for ITx Managed Services. His products including TPx’s managed IT offerings for Microsoft Office 365, Workstations and Servers RMM, and Backup. Ross received his undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon and is currently earning his Executive MBA from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.