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Meet Green Cloud’s Product Management Team!

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One of our chief priorities at Green Cloud is partner enablement, and as we’ve grown, we’ve upgraded our enablement resources to meet demand. Until now, we’ve shared this responsibility among the entire team, each of us wearing multiple hats as needed to resolve whatever situation comes up, whether it be a partner need, a vendor inquiry or even a simple question from another team member. But as with any growing business, there comes a time when resources must be allocated to improve results.

So, after much careful planning and searching for the right candidates, we are proud to introduce our new, dedicated Product Management team. We’ve recently brought John McBride and Frank Shepherd onboard to oversee our product lines and collaborate with vendors on product development.

John comes to us from CCI Systems where he worked as a Senior Account Manager. Previously, he was a sales engineer and product sales specialist at Cisco Systems for ten years, and prior to that was an network engineer for Nuvox, XO Communications and WorldCom.

Frank has a strong background as a certified infrastructure engineer and cloud services architect for firms such as Peak 10, SunGard and Insight Global. Most recently, he was a Principal Systems Engineer for Tintri.

John and Frank have solid experience on both the engineering side and the sales side of IT solutions, which lets them easily deal with questions and deliver the right answers. But the job still involves multiple hats…

As Product Managers, they play an integral role in developing and implementing solutions for our partners. This involves clearly communicating the features and benefits of our product lines and ensuring that the custom solution we design for a partner’s client fits the project scope and budget requirements. In this role, they serve as the principal contact point for all technical questions a partner might have.

Another critical function they perform is as a technical support hub for both internal and external customers. As Green Cloud’s go-to product experts, they not only know our current product roadmap (and our competitors’) inside and out, but they also work with our vendors to explore new products and ensure that they are streamlined and documented to Green Cloud standards. In addition to conducting competitive research, the team will keep an eye on emerging technologies as well, to help our engineers develop new solutions as the industry evolves.

These responsibilities put the team in the unique position of communicating with all levels of the company and our partner network. They must be able to speak to every situation and every audience, be it an engineer, a sales associate, a partner, a vendor rep or an end-user.

The key to success in this role—and something both new Product Managers bring to the table—is the ability to ingest incredibly detailed and complex data about the products, and then communicate what the data means to someone else in layman’s terms. The team adds this critical asset to our toolbox, one that will help us expand our capabilities and drive better business outcomes for our partners.

Green Cloud’s priorities and differences are simple: People, partners and products have contributed to our growth. The Product Management team reinforces our high level of partner commitment because we succeed when our partners succeed.

          Frank Shepherd                           John McBride

        

The Other Side of Meltdown and Spectre Defense

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I have been very surprised by how there has been so much talk about resolving the Intel speculative execution bugs (aka ‘meltdown’ and ‘spectre’), but so little talk about detection and prevention of the actual attack vectors.

Patches have had issues, been rolled back, blocked from being applied, and evaluated as outright useless, yet no one has advocated a strong protection strategy in the meantime. I continue to hear from vendors that there are no exploits in the wild so the threat is low. At the time I believed that to be true as well, and stated the same in my communications to our partners.

However, while that statement was understandable in early January, it is becoming more negligent to continue with that rhetoric with every day that goes by with explanations of the exploit path and proof of concept in the wild. It’s almost certain that by now attacks are developed, planned and most likely being launched silently. It’s important to remember that while this vulnerability requires local execution to exploit, local access is not necessarily required. This means not only protecting at the OS and application level with real time application scanning virus or behavioral tools, but protecting remote code execution vectors such as JavaScript browser based attacks, or preventing the piggybacking on an open remote code execution vulnerability are becoming more critical.

So what am I getting at? Simple: other than its scale, this vulnerability is no different than any other. As always, it is just as important (if not more) to detect and protect as it is to remediate. The bigger the vulnerability the longer it takes to fully resolve, and the more important it is to watch the wall while you are exposed.

You cannot depend solely on OEMs and providers to save the day because their hands are tied by the complexity of solving the problem without rushing and causing further issues. All IT professionals have the responsibility of not only applying OS and firmware patches, but also ensuring that IDS platform signatures are up to date and working, firewalls and WAFs are isolating systems that need not be exposed externally, OS level agents are updated with signatures, browser protections are updated, SIEM rules and views are current, etc. The bottom line? A strong, actively maintained defensive posture is always required. There is ALWAYS an imminent threat, so if you operate with vigilance during a perceived time of peace you are ready for war time when it comes.

None of this is meant to imply that Green Cloud, Intel or any other vendor has no responsibility to protect you as diligently as they can. It’s simply the case that a multi-layered, in depth defense is required in the modern world of complex vulnerabilities. A sieve approach where there are many opportunities to possibly catch an attack early in its lifespan while remediation steps are being developed is always the safest course of action.

Stay tuned for a follow up on exactly how to implement such an approach.

Cloud Services Provider Eric Hester

by Eric Hester, Green Cloud Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer

Looking Back, Looking Forward

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2017 was a big year for Green Cloud.

We kicked off the year by acquiring Cirrity and forming the largest 100% channel-focused, independent cloud service provider. We had our first annual partner summit, rolled out our new partner portal and were named to the INC 5000 list for the second consecutive year.

Now, we’re kicking 2018 off by being named one of the 20 Coolest Cloud Infrastructure Vendors and one of 10 Cloud Providers to Watch in 2018!

You’ll notice that we’re on these lists alongside some of the heavy hitters in the industry. We are beyond thrilled to be among such lofty company, and look forward to continue competing with them and making Green Cloud the premier place to change the face of IT for small and medium sized businesses across the nation.

None of this would be possible without our channel-only partner network. We can’t grow without them, and being recognized on these lists underscores just how fortunate we are to have a network that puts partnership above all else. Our success and ability to be placed on lists for growth or innovation is directly tied to the growth and empowerment of our channel partners.

2018 is off to a great start, and we can’t wait to see what’s yet to come!

Cloud Migrations: A Great Opportunity that Gets Even Better with Our Help

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A couple of weeks ago, we told you about why we compete with the big providers. Our reasoning was that we want to do what the big guys can’t, making cloud technology accessible to everyone and not trying to fit all businesses into a one-size-fits-all mold. When you’re talking about the big providers in the cloud space, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have to talk about Amazon, specifically AWS.

Today, I want to tell you about a specific example of Green Cloud doing what the big guys (namely, Amazon) can’t: fully managed migration services.

Amazon believes that migration services will bring a “massive” opportunity over the next two years—one worth more than $146 billion. Granted, they made this claim while touting their software tools in the AWS marketplace, but we couldn’t agree more about the size of the migration services opportunity.

Where Green Cloud and Amazon disagree on this issue is the approach to getting partners in position to capitalize on adding migration services to their offering. Amazon will provide you with a list of software tools that may or may not fit your needs. You’ll need to vet them out, figure out how to implement them and manage your customers’ migration using them. If that’s not enough of a tall task, you’ll need to do all of this at the rapid pace the marketplace demands.

This is why Green Cloud provides managed migration services for our partners. Green Cloud doesn’t just give you the software tools to migrate your clients’ data, we take ownership of the process. Solid software tools are the start, but migration takes more than a few clicks in a program. A successful migration requires planning, communication, testing, and support-before, during and after the move. Learning how to manage a successful migration takes considerable training and experience, as well as hours of preparation, research and planning. This is all valuable, billable time that is better spent engaging with customers.

We are here to augment your staff, giving you the benefit of migration services without the loss of engineer time or the black eyes of learning the ropes. Our experienced team of service delivery engineers have performed countless migrations, big and small. They will be by your side at every stage of the process, performing as much of the work as your unique migration scenario requires.

Our pricing is reasonable, and our service is complete. You won’t have to vet out software solutions, learn how to use the software, and then guide the customer through the migration while you’re learning on the fly. We’ll make you look like a rock star, while giving you the ability to increase your monthly recurring revenue without increasing your workload.

Just like every facet of our business, Green Cloud’s migration services put the partner first.

-Eric Hester, Chief Innovation Officer

Cloud Services Provider Eric Hester

Why Does Green Cloud Compete with the Big Providers?

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We get asked all the time, “Why would you try to compete with huge companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM?” It’s an easy answer: We do it because this isn’t our first rodeo.

The executive team at Green Cloud has decades of experience in building strong technology companies that can compete with major industry players. For example, we started a long-distance company that went up against AT&T. We then started an ISP that was in direct competition with AOL, Prodigy, and Earthlink. We even started a phone company that went head-to-head with Ma Bell.

Why would we do this over and over? It’s simple: We want to provide services to people who need more than just the products that other companies produce. Our goal is to bring technology to people in a way that makes them happy to use it, rather than give them poor service and confusing procedures, and wish them good luck. We want to make cloud technology accessible to everyone by recognizing many businesses won’t fit in a one-size-fits-all model.

With that attitude driving us, why wouldn’t we start a cloud company that does what the big guys can’t?

We’re comfortable with this David vs. Goliath-style of competition because we know how to build partner networks that garner the support and loyalty of the resellers and MSPs who sign up. We only sell our cloud solutions through our partners, to help them deliver a product to their customers that is practical and reliable, and solves their real-world business problems.

We know our partners’ customers look to them to do more than just sell something and then disappear. In turn, our partners trust us to treat them the same way. That level of trust is what keeps us all operating with integrity, and it creates an environment that breeds superior service and drives focused product innovation. We have our partners not only on our side but by our side in our journey through the ever-shifting world of technology. This level of relationship with our partners simply does not exist in the high-volume world of the warehouse-scale providers.

Bottom line: we are much more than just another cloud company. We are partners, we are educators, we are problem-solvers, we are listeners, we are open to change and we are empathetic. We don’t sell cloud as a commodity; we enable growth through better use of technology for both our partners and their customers. Every person at Green Cloud strives to make the whole ecosystem better every single day. Whether you’re talking about our team, our technology, our support systems, or our products, we are never done evolving what we do, improving what we make and expanding what we’re capable of, on behalf of our partners and their customers.

At Green Cloud, we’re just getting started, and the big companies—as usual—aren’t thinking like us.

-Eric Hester, Chief Innovation Officer

Cloud Services Provider Eric Hester

Green Cloud at IT Nation 2017

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The Green Cloud crew headed down to Orlando at the beginning of November for IT Nation, the channel’s largest solution provider conference. It’s our favorite event of the year (other than our own partner conference, that is), and we always work hard to make it a fun and productive show. There’s a lot of serious discussion and learning that goes on, but the atmosphere is friendly and engaging, and everyone is excited to be there.

ConnectWise puts on the show, but it’s not just a ConnectWise event. There’s a broad range of subjects and presentations that speak to the entire industry, across many vendors. And while the target audience for all the content is the VAR/MSP channel, we always seem to learn something as a company, as well.

At the conference, we spoke to many vendors and providers, and the message that seems to be developing across the IT industry is one of “buy, don’t build”—a theme that fits nicely into Green Cloud’s core competencies. There also seems to be a big push toward DaaS which, again, is a big part of Green Cloud’s offering.

This year’s IT Nation conference had about 3,000 attendees. It’s always a great event for us because we get to engage with many of our current partners, but since IT Nation is MSP-focused, it has also become one of our prime opportunities for face-to-face partner recruitment. We met with MANY new potential partners and had a lot of great conversations. Our sales guys were even writing up quotes for potential new partners on the showroom floor.

It was a thrilling experience, and we returned to Greenville pumped up and ready to help our partners grow their cloud practice with customized, hosted solutions and services. We can’t wait until next year’s event (and we’re already thinking up ideas for our 2018 t-shirts).

Partner Summit 2017

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On October 9th, we welcomed 50 of our channel partners to Greenville for our inaugural Partner Summit. After arriving at the Embassy Suites for happy hour, we took the party to UP on the Roof with some live music and delicious food.
The next day, we got things started bright and early. Following welcome messages from Green Cloud executives and our amazing sponsors, we began with some panels featuring our partners. They covered topics like DaaS, DRaaS, Network & security, and compliance.
After a great lunch at Ruth’s Chris, we broke out into Sales and Technical tracks for the rest of the afternoon. Demos of our new partner provisioning portal, DR solutions and vCloud were highlights of those sessions.
Then, it was time for an experience none of us will forget anytime soon: Performance Driving School at BMW headquarters!
We want to thank all of our partners who were able to join us in Greenville. It was a truly special event, and hearing how much you all enjoyed yourselves makes us thrilled to top this summit in 2018! Thank you to our sponsors for making it all possible: Tintri, Veeam, Zerto, Cisco and Level 3. Want to find out how you can join us in 2018? Contact marketing@gogreencloud.com.

Cloud Storage in the SMB Shows Lots of Room for Growth

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As consumer acceptance of the cloud grows, small businesses are becoming more comfortable about adopting the cloud to handle major facets of their IT operations, particularly when it comes to storing their data. This growing comfort with cloud storage provides VARs and MSPs with major opportunities in the SMB market. The analysts at Clutch, a B2B rating and reviews firm, conducted a recent survey that asked five questions of respondents. The answers they received give us a look at several important factors affecting sales in today’s SMB Cloud market.

 

To Dive In, or Wait?

As cloud provider competition has increased and the technology matured, and (more importantly) as the cost has plummeted, the answer to the question of when to adopt the cloud seems to be “right now.” The majority of SMBs who adopted the cloud have done so within the last few years; nearly a quarter of them within the last 12 months.

The dam appears to have burst. At this point, holding out for better pricing or more ideal technology metrics reaches a point of diminishing returns. The advantages (and sheer necessity) of cloud data storage have surpassed any further cost savings or skeptical hesitation.

 

Why the Cloud?

The fundamental discussion that should be had when considering cloud storage solutions is: “What are the benefits to the organization?” For most businesses surveyed, the primary benefit they received was improved access to data. The ability to easily access data and applications from anywhere, without having to consume IT staff resources to do it, is driving much of the SMB’s cloud adoption.

Businesses—even small ones—are becoming more mobile in their operations, and are relying more and more on staff who can work remotely and on-the-go. The question of whether mobility prompted the cloud or the cloud enabled mobility might be a “chicken-and-egg” debate, but it’s easy to argue that, in this case, you can’t have one without the other.

Interestingly, while improved security and large-file migrations were tied as secondary benefits, the availability of storage and its cost were the least important factors for cloud adoption. In particular, the lack of concern about cost is evidence of the opportunity that now exists, as it shows a major shift in consumer sentiment about what was once a primary obstacle in cloud sales: the expense.

 

Is the Cloud Reliable?

More than a third of organizations surveyed reported no problems with their cloud service providers over the past year. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the primary issue experienced by the remaining two-thirds was downtime, which remains a persistent challenge in the technology world.

While it’s a valid criticism of the cloud, professional cloud storage providers have a strong track record of stable datacenter operations, and multiple layers of built-in redundancy means outages are rare. The reliability of the cloud is on par with any on-premise network, and perhaps more so in many circumstances. In addition, the ability to expand into disaster recovery solutions means that cloud storage possesses many unique qualities that can’t be easily replicated in an on-premise network.

 

Storage Provider or Storage Service?

Control and efficiency are two facets of business operations that often clash with each other. The same is true of cloud storage. Is the attention that must be paid to managing backups worth the trouble, or is a convenient automated service that automatically backs up data a better solution?

For most SMBs, the answer seems to lean heavily in favor of the storage provider solution vs. the automated service approach. This is more evidence of the opportunity that exists for VARs and MSPs to bring comprehensive solutions to their SMB customers, customized to address their desire to control at least some of the process. This may have the added effect of relieving some of the stress associated with making the switch to cloud-based storage (i.e., allowing the data to leave the premises).

 

What is the Spend?

More than half of survey respondents pay $250 or less per month on cloud storage backup. A quarter of them use free services so they pay nothing at all. Free services don’t have the security and capacity to meet the needs of most businesses, however, so those services are likely to become less favored as cloud adoption grows.

Interestingly, a quarter of respondents pay between $250 and $1,000 each month, which is a sweet spot for many service providers building recurring revenue. As cloud adoption continues to gain acceptance and become a business necessity, we can expect to see many free service users shifting to the lower cost tier, and many in the lower cost tier to shift to the middle.

 


 

This survey and its results are eye-opening in terms of what is still out there. If cloud storage is a building-block of your solutions business, then bringing your SMB customers into a cloud storage solution opens up the potential for further sales of security, virtual desktop, disaster recovery, and infrastructure solutions as well.

While selling to the enterprise makes for profitable business, VARs and MSPs are smart to keep an eye on small business moves to the cloud. If nothing else, the Clutch survey adds more evidence to the pile that shows how much opportunity exists in the SMB market.

Disaster Recovery Doesn’t Have to Be a Disaster

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Disasters come in many forms. Some are freak, random events that strike out of the blue. Others are completely-preventable lapses in human judgment, or even the result of a malicious act. For any organization, an interruption in operations can be, well, disastrous. But it doesn’t have to be.

Investing in a disaster recovery solution is an investment in safeguarding your business. Interruptions to your operation will happen, but how you proactively prepare and react to the event will help minimize the impact until operations can be fully restored. A rapid and successful disaster recovery depends entirely on what your company does before a disaster ever occurs.

3 Steps to Successful Disaster Recovery

STEP 1: Make a Plan

Various industry surveys report that roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of companies have no viable disaster readiness plan in place. In our modern, interconnected world where a failure in one facet of operations can cascade into a system-wide breakdown, the failure to plan is inexcusable, but something that is easily remedied. Responsible businesses prepare for the worst, and those that do are vastly more capable of weathering a disaster-related interruption.

Any good business continuity plan will identify the key players within the organization (management, IT, HR, etc.) and assign roles and responsibilities to them if and when disaster strikes. A careful risk assessment of the company’s vulnerabilities, a clearly-defined chain-of-command, and overlapping communication and contingency protocols are essential elements of any disaster recovery plan. The participation of your internal IT team and external IT service providers is also critical to a successful and workable plan. Make sure the various stakeholders provide input and air their concerns during planning because, in the midst of a crisis, you don’t want anyone arguing over what to do.

Be sure to plan for multiple causes of downtime as well. Most people think “disaster” means a natural event like storm, fire, or flood. In fact, natural disasters are the most infrequent causes of business interruption. Far more likely are events such as power outages, network and/or hardware failures, human error, or unauthorized access/cyberattacks. By planning for a wide range of potential events and investing in a multi-purpose approach to recovery, you can prepare your company for virtually any scenario. Finally, have a “Plan B” in place, in case Plan A doesn’t work out for some reason.

STEP 2: Protect Your Company Data and Applications

Data protection and recovery lies at the heart of any successful disaster recovery, but DR solutions are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Every company should employ a regular data backup solution so that operations and data access can be rapidly brought back to a pre-disaster state. In addition, investing in virtual desktops enables an organization’s employees to continue working from any location, should the physical damage to the business be too severe.

Work with your disaster recovery solution provider to not only integrate data backup and virtual infrastructure into your plan, but also to develop a tiered approach to recovering your organization’s critical software applications. By organizing your applications into recovery tiers, you can ensure that applications are brought back online according to their level of operational urgency, and enable you to focus on recovery needs during an event.

STEP 3: Test, Test, Test

Once your DR plan is in place, be sure to schedule and run regular testing drills to make sure the plan actually works. The time to discover weaknesses or holes in your plan is not during an actual disaster event. Regular testing will expose any inefficiencies in the plan or confusion on the part of stakeholders, and gives your management the confidence that the solution in place was worth the investment. This will make it easier to justify updates and expansions of the DR system as technology evolves and new threats emerge later down the road.

The Fourth (and most important) Step

An additional step in successful disaster recovery—and a critical one at that—is to pick the right Disaster Recovery-as-a-Solution (DRaaS) provider. When selecting a provider, be sure to consider not only their recovery technology offerings, but also their business maturity and level of expertise. Look for a provider with the technology you require, and the levels of knowledge and professionalism that match your business objectives.

A good provider partner should be willing to help you plan and implement a disaster recovery program that meets your Recovery Time Objectives (RTO), as well as offer confidence-building resources such as third-party validations of their solutions, comprehensive Service Level Agreements (SLAs), signed certificates of testing, a dashboard to monitor and manage real-time analytics, etc.

Every minute counts in the event of a disaster and interruption in business continuity. To ensure a rapid recovery and resumption of operations—as well as to mitigate any loss of data, revenue, or customers—it is worth the time and investment to develop and implement a proper disaster recovery plan. The keys to success are a proactive approach that recognizes (and respects) the danger to your business, and selecting the right provider partner to meet your recovery goals.

 

A Real-Life Example of Planning for Disaster Recovery

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DaaS solutions prove their worth when the unexpected happens…even for us.

When we talk about disaster recovery and business continuity, we often think about it in terms of a catastrophe—destructive events that directly impact an organization’s physical location and equipment. Not every business interruption is catastrophic, however; in fact, most are short-term problems—power outages, hardware malfunctions, simple human error—that are quickly and easily remedied. Not every interruption is related to the organization’s physical location, either; rather, it is some random, external incident with effects that cascade down the line to suspend business-as-usual. Such interruptions are still costly, nonetheless.

A recent example of such an event occurred in Atlanta, with a massive fire that destroyed an interstate bridge and cut off a heavily-traveled section of highway for weeks. When the initial disaster happened, a 100 ft. section of highway collapsed. Tens of thousands of motorists were stranded, with no way to get to work. Nearly a quarter million vehicles use this section of highway every day, and the immediate disruption to local businesses was staggering. Given the time required to repair the bridge, ongoing traffic issues will continue to make life difficult for area employees, including our own staff in Green Cloud’s Atlanta offices.

Again, for companies taking proactive disaster recovery efforts, this interruption in business continuity as their workers sat idle on a highway had nothing to do with their infrastructure, or their data storage and backup plans. No failover contingency could be employed, and there was no hardware to restore. This was an operational interruption that was completely external and out of anyone’s control. The only element of a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that mattered here was an investment in virtual desktops.

A good Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution—such as the one employed by Green Cloud—enables employees to log into company servers from a remote location and access an exact copy of their workstation, including all files, email, and other applications. This meant that motorists stuck in traffic or otherwise unable to get to the office because of the event could still address business issues and continue to get work done using their laptops or other mobile devices. DaaS’ ability to mitigate the effects of such an event, and to quickly restore some level of operations in an emergency is critical to recovery. In addition to allowing remote employees to continue servicing customers, a virtual desktop solution saves companies valuable time in restoring full operations and prevents a major loss of revenue.

In our case, Green Cloud employees used a DaaS solution to continue monitoring our area data center operations, communicate with fellow staff members across the country, and handle customer accounts with no discernible interruption in quality or timeliness of service.

When assessing risks to your company during the disaster recovery planning phase, try not to think about the totality of possibilities. It is impossible to prepare for every event, but it is definitely possible to build a plan that focuses on business functionality instead. If your core business has a set number of operations that must be fulfilled (customer communications, order entry, inventory management, real-time reporting, etc.), make sure your plan addresses those operations, regardless of why they might get interrupted. As we’ve seen in the Atlanta incident, one key to maintaining business continuity is a solid virtual desktop solution.