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  • Protect Your Business using the Microsoft Cloud

    Having just spent 33 hours without electricity thanks to Winter Storm Stella, my mind is on disaster recovery this morning. Most businesses today rely heavily on technology to run their day-to-day processes like sending and receiving email, creating, editing, and sharing documents and files, looking up customer information, entering orders, and processing payroll. So, if something disastrous happens, their business could grind to a halt.

    Every year, businesses temporarily shut down—or close forever—because of a disaster such as a flood, fire or hurricane. Forty percent of businesses do not reopen after a disaster and another twenty-five percent fail within one year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

    Without a backup plan, your business could be in trouble. If disaster strikes, recovering from it could cost thousands of dollars, plus you could lose your customer’s good faith. It is essential to have a plan in place to save your business and get you back on track.

    What’s included in a plan?

    Disaster plans can cover everything from how to safely get out of your office during a fire, to how to get back up and running if your office and servers are underwater due to a flood. If you take it a step further, think about how to stay in business during a disaster, not just the recovery, you’ll be prepared for the worst.

    While it’s important to customize a plan for your business, every plan should include a technology asset inventory that names mission critical processes and data, a schedule for updating and testing disaster recovery plans, and a clear understanding of the trade-offs between cost and complexity.

    Murphy’s Law

    As you know, Murphy’s Law states that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. That’s why it’s important to understand how your plan works. If you are a business decision maker, you will want to discuss this with your IT team. It is important to ask some questions to make sure you have full coverage for your business, such as:

    • Does your plan include an inventory of mission critical business processes and data?
    • When was the last time anyone reviewed your plan? Tested your plan?
    • Is cyberattack preparedness included in your current plan?
    • How much of your plan is dependent upon human intervention?

    Evaluating Cloud Solutions

    During a disaster, your team will have other priorities than failing over their virtual machines. Automating your solution is key to ensuring success. A cloud solution can help you recover quickly and it’s less expensive than having your own datacenter to support and protect. It’s a practical solution for a business, whether it’s large or small. But it makes especially good financial sense for a smaller organization.

    Not all cloud providers are equal, so you’ll need to do some research to compare. When selecting a cloud provider for your disaster recovery needs, make sure that the service is easy to use and manage, with good support for your team. In addition, make sure they offer:

    • a hybrid solution, so that you can keep data on premise as well as in the cloud
    • a metered service so that you can save even more money by ‘turning off’ services when you don’t need them
    • geo-redundancy with data stored across multiple distant physical locations

    Is relying on the cloud for disaster recovery safe?

    But wait a minute, you might say. I’ve read about companies, even big companies, losing data in the cloud during a disaster. It’s true, there have been times when the cloud failed companies. Sometimes when this happened, it was because the data was only stored in one location. And it was based in the same region as the company. That’s an obvious mistake.

    With the Microsoft cloud, you get ‘geo-redundancy’ and your data is stored in more than one location. So, if your area is hit with a hurricane along with flooding water, your data would be available and safe in a datacenter across the country.

    Next step

    We’d love to meet you and discuss your plans for keeping your business running. If you’re ready right now, contact us. We’re happy to set up a free consultation to review your plan.

    Published on June 12, 2017

  • Grow your business with virtualization and the Microsoft Cloud

    Virtualization is not just for large organizations anymore. With the advent of cloud computing, virtualization is a big win for any small- to mid-sized business.

    There are many things that you do with virtual machines in the cloud

    • Create websites that can grow with your company
    • Add and support new applications that expand your business footprint
    • Run legacy applications

    In addition, by running VM’s in the Microsoft Cloud you get far greater security and compliance.  Microsoft Azure gives you the flexibility to support many application platforms, and the flexibility to scale to suit your needs. You can quickly provision a new virtual machine in a few minutes.

    Many businesses are now ‘born in the cloud.’ Small companies and startups can create a business with Azure because it gives them access to massive amounts of compute power at a low cost of entry. In the past, they would have to pay for server hardware, the space to house the servers, and a large IT staff to support. These costs would have prevented many businesses from even starting. But today, it’s easy to dream big. You can get all the compute power you need, and only pay for what you use.

    Take the example of UniKey. In the span of five years, UniKey has grown from a tiny startup to a pioneer in the smart lock industry. Its founder and president, Phil Dumas, has gone from a budding Florida entrepreneur to the head of a company that’s raised $14.3 million. UniKey uses Linux Virtual Machines, which hosts UniKey’s Ruby on Rails website.

    Most business decision makers know they should be looking at the cloud to transform their business. They know there’s a better way to automate business processes and improve workflows. But they aren’t sure where to start. That’s where we can help.

    We’d love to meet with you and discuss how Azure can benefit your business. Please visit our website to learn more and contact us to request a free Azure assessment.

    Published on June 5, 2017

  • Three Traits Your IT Provider MUST Have

    We recently discussed two uncommon questions you should ask yourself regarding your IT provider: Do they know your name? and Do they think like a four-star chef? In this article we are going to discuss  three attributes your technology supplier must have as you search for the right kind of IT partnership. Although there are many other attributes worth consideration, the three we have chosen are meant to help you consider how your IT provider:

    • Thinks about and prepares customers for the future of IT
    • Delivers ongoing support to help you achieve desired business outcomes
    • Stays relevant in a changing industry and delivers those benefits to customers

    So, here are three must-have traits you should look for, and how to identify them:

    Number 1: Their feet are in the present but their eyes are on the future. Look for a provider that balances future tech developments and business needs with current business needs, costs, and goals.

    Questions to ask: 

    • What are they doing to keep up with technology?
    • What do they know about cloud computing, hybrid clouds, and how to assess your infrastructure for cloud-readiness?
    • What methods do they use to select new technologies for businesses and how do they support them over time?
    • What industry partnerships, competencies or certifications do they maintain?

    Number 2: They are there before you know you need them. Look for a provider that views support and service delivery as a critical ingredient for IT success and delivering on discussed business outcomes.

    Questions to ask: 

    • What services do they provide after introducing new tech into businesses?
    • How do they measure if IT is effectively delivering desired business outcomes?
    • How does their IT support change over time?
    • Do they have a methodology around Project Management, Process, and Governance to ensure technology is properly implemented and adopted?

    Number 3: They’ve got a “stick with it” attitude. Look for a provider that values long-term business, not just making sales. They update their methods, help drive your IT success, and foster a collaborative business partnership.

    Questions to ask:

    • How do they provide long-term value and services to customers?
    • What is their process for recommending technology and associated services?
    • What are their goals when selecting technologies and services for a business?
    • Do they provide a clear path to future optimization and refinement?

    Adding these attributes to your must-have list when considering an IT service provider will help you select the right partner who will bring value to your organization over time, long beyond the initial sale. If you’d like to work with a provider with these traits and who has maintained client relationships that have lasted decades, give us a try.

    Published on May 29, 2017

  • Does Your IT Provider Think Like a Five-Star Chef?

    Last week, we asked if your technology provider knows your name? This week, we have a new question for you: Does your IT provider think like a five-star chef?

    What should your tech provider and a chef have in common? (It’s unlikely you care about them cooking five-star meals; let’s think about this differently.)

    A five-star chef delivers a unique experience with foods, setting, and services that complement each other. A chef must think about these elements strategically. Every detail is meant to contribute to a unique customer experience that drives value for his business. A five-star chef thinks about how individual components affect both the service he sells and his customers’ experiences.

    When selecting the technology to drive and grow your business, you’re looking for a provider who thinks like a chef. They should look for complementary, quality technologies that create a unique environment that best helps you solve unique business challenges. At VerisVisalign, we have found success over the years by utilizing consultative insight to blend the right ingredients of technology, governance and process management for our clients. This ensures our technology solutions are cooked to perfection.

    Find a technology provider who spends quality time understanding your business needs and then looks for and designs solutions to meet and exceed them. They should also be knowledgeable enough about the technology and your business to offer informed, quality support.

    It’s daunting to identify the right technology for your business. When faced with the task, take the opportunity to think deeply about what you need from the people you do business with. If you identify the skills you need your business partners to have, you’ll see the bigger picture around the technology you choose.

    Come back to read up next week about how to select the right IT provider to help you maximize cloud computing in your business.

    Published on May 22, 2017

  • Does Your IT Provider Know Your Name?

    Have you ever assessed your IT provider by asking, “Do they know my name?”

    It’s a simple question, designed to make you think about your relationship with your IT provider. Your provider’s goal should be to understand you and your business—how it runs, what it needs, and where it’s headed. These are important determinants of the technology and support you need. Your provider shouldn’t just select technology that will work; they should be aware of what technology will work best for you.

    With so many options available, it’s important to have a provider that can identify and explain why one technology or one solution is better for you than another. Historically, technology providers did not need to understand the specifics of certain industries to suggest useful technologies. As the number of unique solutions and configurations increases, providers now need to understand how to identify the right technological fit.

    As IT has evolved to meet specific business needs, it’s now your provider’s job to understand which technologies satisfy your needs—not just the needs of your industry. Successfully explaining the value of one option over another demonstrates their understanding of your business needs and helps you make informed decisions. More than ever, you’re looking for an IT provider who can also be a trusted advisor. At VerisVisalign, we have client relationships which span as far back as 20 years. These client relationships have been built on trust and an intimate understating of their business allowing for the creation of unique and custom solutions. We know their name.

    A new concept is particularly helpful for understanding the value of this relationship: business outcomes. This means technology solutions (both cloud and on-premises) designed with strategic goals in mind: business outcomes. These can include improving efficiency for cost-savings, maximizing revenue, increasing security, and more. Beginning a search with business outcomes in mind will help you find a technology provider that demonstrates an understanding of your industry, your needs, and the technology solutions suited to them.  When you find this provider, it’s not a “one off” interaction; it’s a true “win-win” partnership that can last for both parties. Providers who do this are a new breed and spend an enormous time educating themselves on new technologies and industry-specific business outcomes.

    So, start examining your IT provider by asking if they know your name. Whether they do or don’t, it’s a good way to begin thinking differently about the relationships you need to grow your IT to achieve your strategic goals.

    Ready to learn more? Next week, we’re going to dive deeper into finding the right provider with another important consideration for how they approach the solutions they offer.

    Published on May 15, 2017

  • Does Your IT Provider Offer Total Support?

    In recent articles, we’ve discussed cloud computing and its business value to companies of all types and sizes. Flexibility, mobility, security and redundancy are just some of the benefits of the cloud which we have covered. But what about support? When buying new technology, it’s important to remember that working with the right partner is a key part of getting the most business value out of your IT.

    While you’re busy running your business, your technology is trying to keep up with you. Selecting technology that can adapt to your current needs and adapt to changing demands and conditions is critical to planning for growth. If you think about your IT this way, you should also think about your IT support the same way. You are looking for a provider who will not only provide you with a sound technology solution, but who also understands how to use it to drive valuable business outcomes.

    Getting the most out of your IT means finding the right partner. But what does that look like? Are they moving at the same pace as you? Are they trying to help you get ahead, stay ahead, and work better? Are they capable of providing you with support at the locations where you need them? Can they provide the same quality of support at all your locations and for remote staff?

    Though it’s hard to find one business to do everything exceptionally well, focus on finding one with the services and solutions that can deliver the greatest value for you. This year VerisVisalign is celebrating a relationship with one of our support clients that started twenty years ago in 1997. The services we have provided over those two decades have not changed greatly but the technology certainly has. Windows NT and Office 97 support is no longer in vogue, but we are currently planning for Windows 10 migrations and are providing Office 365 support. Our team has kept up with technology and the client’s needs over that time. Simplifying their business relationship has allowed them to focus on the already busy and complicated business that they run and has resulted in a long and mutually rewarding relationship.

    In our upcoming article, we’ll continue to explore how to get the most out of cloud computing and how your IT provider plays a vital role in your business success.

    Published on May 8, 2017

  • Hybrid IT: A Journey For You And The Modern MSP

    Last week we discussed why VerisVisalign has embraced becoming a cloud centric MSP. By utilizing cloud technologies, we can provide our clients with power, flexibility, and security that was impossible just a few years ago. But, let’s not forget that on-premises technology and infrastructure play a key role as well. We live in a hybrid world and the cloud is often built from the ground up so both on-premises and cloud technologies must work hand in hand to be successful.

    In recent years, the cloud has emerged as the leading technology for delivering services across industries. How have cloud technology-as-a-service solutions come to dominate the market so quickly?

    1. The internet continues to improve and is the backbone of delivering cloud solutions anywhere
    2. Cost-effective, high-speed networks are in use by individuals, small businesses, and enterprises
    3. Server virtualization has dramatically reduced the cost of powerful computing

    Now, massive and extremely cost-effective datacenters around the world are hosting all the software that drives “as-a-service” apps. Businesses of all sizes and their employees can access these datacenters for services from around the world via reliable and affordable high-speed networks. Never has such technology been available to businesses of all sizes at such low costs.

    All cloud all the time? Not yet…

    Despite all the powerful advancements, we are living in a hybrid world of on-premises and cloud technologies. Though cloud computing is here, businesses need to approach cloud computing as a journey from on-premises technology to cloud computing. During the transition, a hybrid model is a great (and often recommended) next step to gain the flexibility, scalability, and affordability of cloud computing while getting the full life and utility from existing on-premises IT.

    A Modern MSP with expertise in both traditional on-premises technology and cloud computing can help customers build an intelligent solution now that will help them transition in the future. The right partner will help to make every investment in the cloud an investment that addresses immediate needs as well as long-term goals.

    How? It’s all about the business outcomes you have in mind. 

    Just as moving to the cloud is a journey, so are the long-term business outcomes you hope to achieve. Combine the two goals and you create a powerful feedback loop to drive your IT and your business forward.

    We’re here to help you grow. A wise first step on the path to the cloud is to invest in an assessment of your environment. Fully understanding your current state, readiness for cloud technologies, what the future “to-be” state should look like, and addressing any weakness or vulnerabilities beforehand will ensure a successful transition. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss your unique needs and see where the cloud fits into your IT and business planning.

    Published on May 1, 2017

  • Thinking about the Cloud with a “Cloud First” Service Provider

    In our last article, we discussed three areas in which the Modern MSP can help clients to use IT to develop and deliver better business outcomes: 1) Increase revenue, 2) Decrease costs and 3) Minimize security and compliance risk. As we consult with clients, we are helping them to understand that utilizing cloud technologies is the quickest and most cost-effective way to meet all three of these objectives.

    Why does the Modern MSP think ‘cloud first’ for its customers?

    The cloud is here to stay. It is a proven set of technologies which provide enormous benefits to customers, especially to small and medium sized businesses, that have never been realized in the technology world. Cloud computing means that premises-based IT systems, applications and databases are hosted in one or more state-of-the-art datacenters managed by a cloud services provider. Examples include Microsoft Office 365 for email and collaboration, Microsoft Azure for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Microsoft Dynamics for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

    There are huge benefits to having a cloud-driven business

    For many reasons—productivity, reliability, security, accessibility, costs, etc.—cloud services have become enormously popular for companies of all sizes and we have helped both SMBs and large enterprises with their migration to the cloud. The cloud is universally believed to represent the future model for the delivery of IT services. Through advanced virtualization technologies, an experienced technical support staff, and a major investment in hosting facilities, a cloud services provider can operate more efficiently and cost-effectively in delivering hosted IT services than a company which owns and manages their own dedicated, on-premises datacenter.

    Cloud services come in many forms—sometimes as point solutions and sometimes as fully integrated applications and services that solve a range of business challenges. Organizations can utilize the cloud to obtain power and scale well beyond what they could achieve On-Premises by using any of the following strategies: Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS (Servers, Virtualization) Platform as a Service, or PaaS (Azure) Software as a Service, or SaaS (Office 365).

    Let’s explore a simple example: hosted email.

    One of our more common scenarios is an email migration to Office 365. Many benefits are immediately realized by the customer by moving an on-premises e-mail system into the cloud as a hosted service.

    • First, the server itself is eliminated. No longer will a costly and complex device require floor space, electrical power, cooling, system upgrades, software patching, maintenance, and repair. Email service in the cloud removes this costly overhead and replaces it with a hosted service; heavy and unpredictable capital and operating expenses associated with an on-premises solution are replaced with a predictable monthly or annual service fee that dramatically reduces Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
    • Second, the simplicity of a hosted solution and the reach of the internet enable untethered, universal access to the service for users located anywhere, using any device. The cloud is not only a cost saver, it’s an enabler of mobility, information access and device independence, often replacing the need for a legacy VPN.
    • Third, the built-in redundancy, failover, backup, security and many other features of hosted services allow far more stability with an uptime of over 99%, far exceeding what the average small or medium sized customer could ever achieve on premise.
    • Fourth, you always have the latest version of the product. There will be no need to spend the time and money engaging on a major migration to a new version of the system because the hosted system is continually upgraded by the provider.

    Now imagine that all the benefits (and more!) associated with our simple email example are applied to any and every application or service that migrates to the cloud. Savings and organizational benefits are greatly multiplied.

    Customers today have an extremely broad range of cloud services available to them. Think of them as a collection of building blocks that you can use to solve problems and enable business objectives. The Modern MSP must have a “cloud first” mentality to de-mystify the cloud and help customers reap the rewards.

    Want to learn more about what’s available to you in the cloud and build your cloud adoption plan? Contact us today.

    Published on April 24, 2017

  • PSATS Conference – April 24, 2017

    On April 24, VerisVisalign will be presenting at the PA Association of Township Supervisors in Hershey, PA.  The session will focus on affordable technology options, such as Office 365, which can help townships ramp up their productivity, improve their websites, and increase the public’s access to information.

    Published on April 19, 2017