SHI enters elite Windows Azure Circle

Posted by at 11:23 AM

Microsoft recently selected SHI to join the Windows Azure Circle, an elite group of partners that demonstrate excellence in assisting customers with planning, designing, procuring, and implementing Windows Azure solutions. Not every Microsoft partner is eligible to join this group since program acceptance requires a Microsoft executive sponsorship and a partner commitment to provide world-class solutions and support leveraging Windows Azure.

SHI has helped customers implement Windows Azure since Microsoft made it available through volume licensing in November 2011, and adoption continues to accelerate as customers move toward cloud-based solutions. SHI increased revenue generated through Windows Azure agreements by 259 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, and we continued to exhibit strong growth in early 2014. January’s revenue alone reflected an 816 percent increase compared to the same month last year.

In joining the Windows Azure Circle, SHI can now access even more Windows Azure training and technical resources to help us assess, develop, and implement Windows Azure for more customers. Membership in this group reinforces our commitment to providing customers one-of-a-kind, world-class support.

Have you considered implementing Windows Azure? Do you have questions about how Windows Azure will fit within your organization’s environment? If so, email your SHI sales representative today.

Why defining your company’s business goals is the key to unified communications success

Posted by at 8:48 AM

I’m asked, almost on a daily basis, what is the best unified communications (UC) solution on the market. Generally speaking, my response is, “Great question! The best UC solution is one that aligns with clearly defined business requirements.” I typically then ask the customer, “What are your business requirements for this solution?”

Seems like a logical question to ask, don’t you think? But occasionally, my question is met with an uncomfortable silence, awkward eye glances, and shifting body movements as the customer tries to articulate a response.

To all potential UC customers, I promise this question is not meant to suck you into some sort of reseller trap. Instead, it is designed to ensure the success of your UC solution. When evaluating a UC solution, clearly defining business goals is the first and most important step. For resellers, understanding how a customer expects to benefit from a solution will influence the products recommended. And for customers, the answer to this question will drive product selection and determine the solution’s success. The question is the benchmark on which customers and resellers will evaluate a UC solution.

Define your business requirements

Too often, UC projects fall short of maximizing the investment because business requirements are not fully understood by an organization upfront. To identify business requirements, customers should ask and answer what, why, and how: What are your processes today? Why do you need to change them? How are you going to benefit from those changes? Answering these questions in detail will drive the success of your solution. Continue Reading…

How to get your maintenance renewals under control

Posted by at 5:50 PM

If your organization always wants the latest and greatest products and most up-to-date support, chances are you buy your software and hardware maintenance from various manufacturers. The question is: How do you manage all of your purchases while ensuring you’re not overspending?

Renewal management can be complicated, involving a kaleidoscope of factors that can turn a simple process into a field full of potential land mines, including overspending and non-compliance. Here are some of the challenges IT organizations face while managing renewals and how to solve them.

1. Myriad buying programs. Every business unit has its own unique mix of hardware and software needs. When it comes to licensing Microsoft products, for example, some organizations excel with an Enterprise Agreement (EA) to license a particular number of seats at any time for any product. Other organizations utilize a Select Agreement to buy what they need when they need it. With other publishers, some parts of your organization might still rely on perpetual licenses while others need options like the subscription-based Adobe Creative Cloud. The range of potential ongoing agreements in any company is vast, and renewal dates are unlikely to align, creating the potential for under-licensing or budgetary “gotchas” if the various renewal dates aren’t closely tracked.

2. Multiple employees managing buying programs. Larger organizations have licenses with more manufacturers and for more products than any one person can manage alone. Of course splitting the workload, whether by division or manufacturer, reduces visibility into organization-wide renewal dates. Having employees manage licensing in a silo also limits potential cost-savings and cost-avoidance advantages for future licensing, as employees might not be aware that their combined purchases qualify them for the next level (price break) of cost-savings. Continue Reading…

4 steps to mobile device management for small businesses

Posted by at 3:01 PM

There’s no denying or avoiding the proliferation of personal mobile devices in the workplace. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2017, half of all employers will require employees to supply their own devices. This forecast is based on a global survey of CIOs that found that 38 percent of companies expect to stop providing devices to workers by 2016.

For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), BYOD is a no-brainer, as it eliminates overhead and often reduces service and data costs. However, it also introduces a lot of unknowns into a company’s IT environment that few companies are equipped to manage.

Organizational supervision of personal mobile devices in an IT environment is lacking. Only 37 percent of SMBs are managing or plan to manage these devices using a mobile device management (MDM) solution. Without MDM, companies with a BYOD policy in place are at risk for security breaches, data leakage, and the financial losses associated with both.

If your business doesn’t yet have an MDM solution in place, it’s time to find one. Here are four best practices for managing the personal devices in your organization that will help you implement a formal MDM strategy: Continue Reading…

Mobile device management at the application layer

Posted by at 12:57 PM

In this era of tech-savvy business people using their personal devices to work, employees are concerned that if they lose their device — or if it’s stolen — the company will wipe it clean to protect any sensitive company data. Now, it’s not a mobile device management (MDM) manager’s job to care if a few personal pictures get lost, but they should realize that end users do care, and as a result might attempt to circumvent the MDM to keep their personal contacts, photos, and other information safe.

MDM suppliers are looking to secure smart devices from the application layer because of this shift in mentality to keep personal and corporate information separate. It’s a double-edged sword, because employees want an unobtrusive tool that doesn’t contain a lot of oversight but also allows IT to stay up-to-date on their organization’s security requirements.

Can you be non-intrusive and secure?

The most requested feature of 2012 we heard from customers was the ability to wipe corporate data off of a device without deleting the contents of the entire device. That’s been the problem so far with most MDM solutions – they treat the device as a single container and make it work in a way that the organization dictates. With the shift to managing the applications, you give the user a chance to use the device as they intended, while allowing for extra management of content and security.

One problem that arises when you look further into application management is that app markets like the Google Play Store do very little in terms of vetting applications before they’re made available to the public. Though they’re making a more concerted effort now than a few months ago, the amount of oversight is still fairly low. From an MDM perspective, if you knew the name of an application you could add it to a blacklist, but malicious applications tend to multiply by the thousands every day. It would be nearly impossible to block them all. Continue Reading…

Mobile Device Management: Curing the headache of lost company data

Posted by at 9:53 AM

Virtually every week you read in the news about some large, well-known company suffering from the loss of sensitive corporate information at the hands of their employees. A Symantec study found that people who find a lost smartphone tried to access its private information — including trying to access a banking app — 89 percent of the time. And with so many users connecting their smartphones to their work email or company apps, the chances of sensitive corporate data falling into the wrong hands is more real than ever.

This is where being covered by a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution is key.

What is MDM?

MDM is a software solution that monitors, secures, manages, and supports all mobile devices on its network and can reduce IT support costs and business risk. It can reside in the cloud or a private data center. Hosting an MDM on-premise will incur higher capital costs, obviously, requiring an organization to purchase hardware up front and maintain regular software maintenance. However, some businesses find an on-premise solution is necessary for security or compliance reasons. Continue Reading…

The problems with PST files

Posted by at 11:38 AM

Most companies cannot give users unlimited email storage on their Exchange server (although many users will attempt to test this reality). To control the amount of data begin stored, administrators implement quotas on mailboxes. When users reach their quota, they have two options: They can delete some email (yeah, right), or move it off the Exchange server.

Outlook uses PST files to store email outside of an Exchange system. The program prompts users to auto-archive old email to PST files by default, but users can also manually create them. While this sounds like a simple fix, most IT support will tell you that PST files are a pain in the neck to manage and in some cases create more problems than they solve.

To make matters worse, desktops and laptops are not always protected by a backup process. For this reason, users are taught to put documents and files they want backed up in their “home” folder on a network file server, which, in theory, is backed up regularly. As a result, users often put their PST files in their home folder and open them in Outlook to use.

Server administrators (or backup administrators) are responsible for backing up these file servers. There are two types of backups: full backups, during which all files are backed up, and incremental backups for files that have changed since the last full backup. Continue Reading…